Cylinder of Nabonidus


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This clay cuneiform cylinder was discovered in the Temple of Shamash at Sippar. It records the pious reconstruction by Nabonidus (reigned 555-539 BC) of the temples of the moon-god Sin in Harran and of the sun-god Shamash and goddess Anunitum at Sippar. He tells us that during the work at Sippar, inscriptions of older kings Naram-Sin (2254-2218 BC) and Shagaraki-shuriash (1245-1233 BC) were discovered, and Nabonidus offers dates that considerably exaggerate their age.

Nabonidus came to the throne after the assassination of two of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had no direct family connection with the Babylonian royal family. He was old enough to have a mature son (Bel-shar-usur, the biblical Belshezzar) and was almost certainly an experienced soldier. A number of Nabonidus' inscriptions include historical references intended to show that his irregular accession to the throne had the blessing of the gods and of earlier Babylonian kings. Linked to this concern for legitimacy are the recurring references to Nabonidus' search for earlier buildings in the course of his own reconstruction work.

Collecting ancient documents and objects was already practised, for example, at Ashurbanipal's library at his palace at Nineveh. In the ruins of the Northern Palace at Babylon a museum-like collection of 'antiquities' was found, apparently collected by Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. This was probably still visible in Persian times.


  • Title: Cylinder of Nabonidus
  • Date Created: -555/-540
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 22.86cm; Diameter: 9.20cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1882,0714.1025
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Shamash Temple
  • Period/culture: Neo-Babylonian Dynasty
  • Material: fired clay
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Authority: Ruler Nabonidus
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Rassam, Hormuzd

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