Image of Utu Shamash Sun God from British Museum collection


Larsa (𒌓𒀕𒆠 UD.UNUG-KI read as Larsam-ki) was founded in the prehistoric Ubaid period (probably 6000-4000 BCE), and on the Sumerian King List, it is listed as one of the five cities in Mesopotamia before the flood.

The city of Larsa came to prominence at the end of the Ur III period, around 2000 BCE. It first joined up with another city, Isin, to form the Larsa-Isin empire. Then the king Gungunum of Larsa set out as a stand-alone empire without Isin, and the Larsa empire covered about 10-15 city states around it. It was finally conquered by Babylon and incorporated into the larger Babylonian empire around 1700 BCE.

Map of the city of Larsa
Image of elephant with ivory tusks


Larsa was an important trading city, and had easy access to the Persian Gulf, and the areas of Dilmun (Bahrain), Magan (Oman/UAE) and the Harappan/Indus Valley civilisation. It traded ivory, hides and vegetable oil, paid for by wool and silver. Some of the goods were re-exported towards nothern Mesopotamia.

Sumeria had millions of sheep and a large agricultural surplus, due to all the irrigation canals. The area was very poor in stone, metals and wood, and these all had to be imported from far away. The largest trading areas for Sumeria was the Persian Gulf (particularly todays Bahrain, Oman, UAE, Pakistan and India), Anatolia (Turkey) and the Zagros Mountains area in Iran. For the trade with the Persian Gulf, typically Sumerians traded with Magan (Oman/UAE) and Dilmun (Bahrain) and they again traded further away. The Larsa trade seems to have been driven by private entrepreneurs, as compared to the trade with Ur which was mostly driven by institutional actors (like the temples).

Image of the Sumerian sun god Utu or Shamash


Larsa was home to the sun god Utu or Šamaš. He woke up at sunrise and walked accross the sky. He was also the god of light and righteousness, and oversaw legal agreements. Utu/Šamaš is depicted on top of the Code of Hammurabi.

In Sumeria, Utu is the son of the moon god Nanna-Suen and he is the twin brother of Inana. Later, Šamaš (his Akkadian name) was made the son of Enlil or Anu. Utu/Šamaš was married to Aya, goddess of the dawn. Read more about Utu/Šamaš, the sun god.

date palm


Larsa started out as a small city state. Around the end of the Ur III period, Larsa emerged as the local ruler of a small empire covering 10-15 city states.


sculpture of worshipper at Larsa


The most famous Larsa rulers were Gungunum, who conquered the neighbouring city of Ur around 1920 BCE, and Rim-Sin I, who was beaten by Babylonia and saw the end of the Larsa empire around 1763 BCE.

See a complete list of Larsa kings.

cuneiform tablet with numbers


A number of important Cuneiform tablets have been found in Larsa, and a number of them deal with mathematics. One tablet proves that the people of Larsa understood trigonometry almost 4000 years ago.

One of the most important mathematical tablets is linked to Larsa, the Plimpton 322, which shows that people in Mesopotamia understood trigonometry much earlier than the Greeks (we originally thought that the Greeks had discovered trigonometry).

Larsa today

Larsa today

The ancient city of Larsa is today located in Iraq, at Tell Es-Senkereh.

The current site of Tell Es-Senkereh is an oval, about 7 km in circumference. Read about the current site of Tell Es-Senkereh.

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