A Woman to Know: Ennigaldi-Nanna

The House of Enigadda-Nanna, my daughter, Entu priestess of Sin, I built new. — King Nabonidus

(image via Wikimedia)


Ennigaldi-Nanna, an ancient Babylonian princess and high priestess, built what many consider to be the first museum. Her 6th century BCE collection had all the trappings of a modern-day Met: special cases for artifacts, catalogues of objects and (most critically) labels for the items on display.

Raised in the palace with her archeology-loving father, King Nabonidus, Ennigaldi-Nanna learned early on to appreciate the history of precious objects. Nabonidus appointed her as a high priestess of Sin (this isn't as scandalous as it sounds — Sin is just a moon goddess, which is still rad). She and her father set aside a special room in her temple for sacred antiquities. There, the two would inscribe clay drums with the details of the artifact, perhaps, some historians think, even going on their own archaeological digs outside the city of Ur (pictured above).

In 1925, the archaeologist Leonard Woolley discovered Ennigaldi-Nanna's mini museum, partially preserved beneath 2,000 years of dust and sand. Because of the priestess's careful labels, Woolley was able to peruse the historic collection, just as she and her father had intended.


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