The Goddess Nisaba

Fragment of a stone vessel with the representation of the goddess Nisaba and an inscription of Entemena of Lagash, Lagash, Sumer, Basalt, Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin. 


Lagash was one of the most important cities in ancient Sumer, located midway between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now southeastern Iraq. The city was founded in the prehistoric Ubaid Period. The written dedication of King Entemena on this fragment indicates it was made during his reign circa 2400 B.C.E. Nisaba's exact place in the Sumerian pantheon is somewhat ambiguous and transitional. Several temples to her are mentioned in texts although none have been found archaeologically. Nisaba was first worshipped as an agricultural deity, more specifically a goddess of grain. The connection between agriculture and the need for accounting gives us some indication of how she transitioned into a goddess of writing. She was the goddess of scribes until she was eventually replaced in that function by the god Nabu. Her continued role in the conception of children and in pregnancy may be due to her earlier agricultural affiliation.

Nisaba relief sculpture fragment from Lagasch

Sumerian goddess of scribes.

The scribal god of the Mesopotamian pantheon; the son of Marduk, he came to be associated with wisdom as well as writing.

The first major civilization of ancient Mesopotamia, arising in the fifth millennium B.C.E. and lasting through the early second millennium B.C.E.; the Sumerians invented the first writing system, cuneiform.

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