Cambridge Archaeological Journal


Chariots of the Gods in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (c. 2000–1600 BC)

Elizabeth C. Stonea1

a1 Department of Anthropology State University of New York at Stony Brook Stony Brook, NY 11794-4364

The distribution of designs on Mesopotamian terracottas can provide clues to the relationship between symbols and meaning at different localities. Unlike other Mesopotamian terracottas whose iconography reflects pan-Mesopotamian beliefs, the designs on model chariots are site-specific. While Mesopotamian religious symbols should probably be interpreted as representing aspects of divine power rather than individual deities, combinations of symbols serve to identify particular gods. When these are found on model chariots, they can be related to the titular deities of the specific city in which they were found. Examination of the findspots of these objects, especially those from Mashkanshapir, suggests a possible link between model chariots and the centralizing institutions of the city.