Ishtar Gate

Gate of Ishtar. By Rictor Norton –, CC BY 2.0,

In 1160 B.C., Shutruk-Nahhunte, King of Elam in the mountains east of Mesopotamia, campaigned triumphantly through Agade, Kish, Sippar, and other towns of ancient Babylonia. He returned to his capital at Susa with a rich haul of loot, which he offered up to the god who had led him to his victory. In all probability many a conquering monarch before him had done likewise; it was an appropriate gesture, and just about became standard procedure in later ages. Shutruk-Nahhunte’s instance is notable only because it is the first of which we are sure- Elamite inscriptions found at Susa report that he presented his booty to the Elamite deity In-Sushnak and placed it on display in his temple.

Since a museum is by definition any “room, building, or locale where a collection of objects is put on exhibition,” whatever part of In-Shushinak’s temple happened to be used qualifies as a sort of museum, one of war trophies—but just barely.

For a museum that approaches what we generally mean by the term, we must go back in time to the first half of the sixth century B.C., to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon.

Read the rest of The World’s First Museum and the World’s First Archaeologists in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.