NEW YORK CITY — On April 9, Doyle New York auctioned a rare and important Nebuchadnezzar II Babylonian cuneiform cylinder that set a world auction record price for a Babylonian cylinder at $605,000, surpassing the prior record of £264,000 (about $440,000) that was set in London in 2011. The cylinder sold to a bidder on the telephone.
The clay cylinder describes the rebuilding of the temple of Shamash in Sippar (modern Tell Abu Habbah in Iraq) by Nebuchadnezzar II and dates to the neo-Babylonian period, circa 604–562 BCE. At 8¼ inches in length, it is the largest example to come to market in recent times. In 1953, it was sold through Dawson’s of Los Angeles.
It was customary for the kings of Babylon to publicly cement their relationship with the gods by restoring their temples. These accomplishments were recorded in cuneiform writing on clay cylinders, which were buried in the foundations of the restored temples. These cylinders were enduring commemorations of the king’s fealty to the gods, and they enhanced the appearance of legitimacy for the ruler with his subjects.
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