Monkeys in Ancient Mesopotamian Culture

Primates most closely resembling the Indian rhesus macaque were depicted on terracottas found in excavations of Old Babylonia (c. 1800 BCE).  These monkeys may have been kept as pets.   Notably, also from the Old Babylonian Period, small clay figurines of monkeys were found in the archaeology of southern Mesopotamia.   By the time of the Kassite Period (c. 1600 BCE), and especially during the Neo-Assyrian era (c. 900 BCE), monkeys were probably brought to the Mesopotamian area from Egypt – there were close ties between the Kassite kings and Egypt during Akhenaton’s reign in the Amarna Period.   Also around 900 BCE, the old south Arabian kingdom of Saba (modern north Yemen) or Ethiopia may have supplied primates, especially baboons.  Images of monkeys are found in the art of Nimrud, during the reign of Assurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE).  Monkeys are also mentioned in Mesopotamian literature such as the “Curse of Agade”, a tale/poem dating back to the Ur III Period of Mesopotamia (c. 2047-1750 BCE).


See also:  The Literature of Ancient Sumer. J. Black, Oxford University Press, 2006.

Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. S. Bertman, Oxford University Press, 2003.

The Age of Agade. B. R. Foster, Routledge, 2016.