Hidden Women of History: Ennigaldi-Nanna, Curator of the World’s First Museum

The museum, over 2,500 years old, was centered on cultural heritage, and it is thought to have perhaps had an educational purpose

“It belongs in a museum.” With these words, Indiana Jones, the world’s best-known fictional archaeologist, articulated an association between archaeologists, antiquities, and museums that has a very long history. Indeed, even Jones himself would likely marvel at the historic setting of the world’s first ‘ museum’, and the remarkable woman who is believed to have been its curator, the Mesopotamian princess, Ennigaldi-Nanna.

(C. Leonard Woolley, left and T. E. Lawrence at archaeological excavations in Syria, circa 1912-1914, discovered the first museum curator – Ennigaldi-Nanna)

Ennigaldi-Nanna was the priestess of the moon deity Sin, and the daughter of the Neo-Babylonian king, Nabonidus. In the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, around 530 BC, a small collection of antiquities was gathered, with Ennigaldi-Nanna working to arrange and label the varied artifacts.

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