NEW YORK, NY.-
On April 9, Doyle New York
auctioned a rare and important Nebuchadnezzar II Babylonian cuneiform cylinder that set a world auction record for a Babylonian cylinder. The price of $605,000 achieved by Doyle New York far surpassed the prior record of £264,000 (approx. $440,000) set in London in 2011. The cylinder sold to a bidder participating 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 BC. At 8 1/4 inches (20.8 cm) in length, it is the largest example to come to market in recent times and was estimated at $300,000-500,000. In 1953, it was sold through Dawsons of Los Angeles.
Nebuchadnezzar II was responsible for the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon in 587 BC. All of the ritual objects contained in the Temple, including the fabled Ark of the Covenant, were lost, and the Jewish population was carried away into captivity in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar II is featured in the Bibles Book of Daniel, and Psalm 137 laments the Babylonian Captivity.
In Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II built the monumental Ishtar Gate, now reconstructed in Berlins Pergamon Museum, and the legendary Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
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.
The most famous of these clay cylinders is the Cyrus Cylinder, named for the Persian King Cyrus the Great, who conquered Babylon in 540 BC and subsequently released the Jews from captivity. The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in Babylon in 1879 and is now in the collection of the British Museum in London.