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She Who Wrote: Enheduanna and Women of Mesopotamia, ca. 3400-2000 B.C. at The Morgan Library & Museum, October 14, 2022 – February 19, 2023

“The Morgan Library & Museum proudly presents She Who Wrote: Enheduanna and Women of Mesopotamia, ca. 3400-2000 B.C. opening October 14, 2022, and running through February 19, 2023. The exhibition brings together for the first time a comprehensive selection of artworks that capture the rich and shifting expressions of women’s lives in ancient Mesopotamia during the late fourth and third millennia BC. It centers on the high priestess and poet Enheduanna (ca. 2300 BC), the world’s first author known by name, who wielded considerable religious and political power. Displaying a spectacular collection of her texts alongside other works made circa 3400–2000 BC, She Who Wrote celebrates Enheduanna’s poetry and her legacy as an author, priestess, and woman while bearing testament to women’s diverse roles in religious, social, economic, and political contexts—as goddesses, priestesses, worshippers, mothers, workers, and rulers.” — The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan’s Director, Colin B. Bailey, said, “After unavoidable delays due to the pandemic, we are delighted to be cooperating with colleagues from museums around the world, who have remained steadfast in their commitment to assist the Morgan in presenting this groundbreaking exhibition. Enheduanna’s legacy is multifaceted, and the Morgan is honored to present her story to a new generation of visitors.” 

Kneeling female figure Iran, proto-Elamite, Susa (modern Shush) Late Uruk period, ca. 3300 BC © Musée de l’Armée, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photography by Les frères Chuzeville.
Cylinder seal (and modern impression) with sheep and stylized plants Mesopotamia, Sumerian Late Uruk–Jemdet Nasr period, ca. 3300–2900 BC. Courtesy of the Yale Babylonian Collection. Photography by Klaus Wagensonner (seal) and Graham S. Haber (impression).
Fragment of a vessel with frontal image of goddess Mesopotamia, Sumerian Early Dynastic IIIb period, ca. 2400 BC. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin- Vorderasiatisches Museum. Photo by Olaf M. Teßmer.
Cylinder seal (and modern impression) with goddesses Ninishkun and Ishtar Mesopotamia, Akkadian Akkadian period (ca. 2334–2154 BC). Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Stele of Shara-igizi-Abzu Mesopotamia, Sumerian, possibly Umma (modern Tell Jokha) Early Dynastic I–II period, ca. 2900– 2600 BC. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Funds from various donors, 1958.
Cylinder seal (and modern impression) of Queen Puabi Mesopotamia, Sumerian, Ur (modern Tell el-Muqayyar), PG 800, Puabi’s Tomb Chamber, against Puabi’s upper right arm Early Dynastic IIIa period, ca. 2500 BC. Courtesy of the Penn Museum.
Queen Puabi’s funerary ensemble Mesopotamia, Sumerian, Ur (modern Tell el- Muqayyar), PG 800, Puabi’s Tomb Chamber, on Puabi’s body Early Dynastic IIIa period, ca. 2500 BC. Courtesy of the Penn Museum.
Seated female figure with vessel in hands Mesopotamia, Neo-Sumerian, Girsu (modern Tello) Ur III period (ca. 2112–2004 BC). © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photography by Franck Raux.
Tablets inscribed with “The Exaltation of Inanna” in three parts Mesopotamia, possibly Larsa (modern Tell Senkereh) Old Babylonian period, ca. 1750 BC. Courtesy of the Yale Babylonian Collection. Photography by Klaus Wagensonner.

The exhibition is curated by Sidney Babcock, Jeannette and Jonathan Rosen Curator and Department Head of Ancient Western Asian Seals and Tablets at the Morgan and co-curated by Erhan Tamur, Curatorial Research Associate for the Department.

Babcock said, “Enheduanna is nothing less than the first known author in history. That she is not better known is something this exhibition hopes to remedy. The images of women from this period, presented here for the first time as a group, have often been overlooked. It is time to take a closer look at the extraordinary artistry of these images, as well as the way in which they reflect the contributions of women at the beginning of history. Preparing for this exhibition during the pandemic has been a challenge. I am deeply grateful to my colleagues at the Morgan and at the many national and international lending institutions for their enthusiastic support for this groundbreaking effort.”

Images courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.

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