A finely carved Sumerian relief of a male deity, likely the god Istaran, local deity of the Sumerian city-state, Der. The figure is bearded and wears the typical layered woollen skirt, known as a ‘kaunakes’, worn by Sumerian men and women. He stands in profile and in his left arm holds a snake, likely Nirah – the messenger of Istaran who was know to take the form of a snake. Details such as the fine incisions on the figure’s skirt and hair, his facial features and the eye and mouth of the snake are still clearly visible. The back of the figure is unmoulded.
In Ancient Sumerian art, male deities are commonly depicted as bearded, wearing the traditional kaunakes, sometimes adorned with additional features such as a headdress. Istaran and snakes in general were associated with justice in Ancient Sumer. Whilst Istaran himself was believed to mediate disputes and make judicial decisions, the ‘Stele of the Vultures’ – an inscribed monument from Early Dynastic Period Mesopotamia – suggests that snakes were responsible for delivering justice. His cult was particularly popular from the Early Dynastic Period (2900-2350 BC) until the Middle Babylonian period (1595-1155 BC), though mentions of temples dedicated to the god refer mostly to the city of Der alone.
Date: Circa 2nd – 1st millennium BC