Statue of a Female Sumerian Worshipper from Khafajah [Detail]

Statue of a Female Sumerian Worshipper from Khafajah [Detail]

Statue of a Female Sumerian Worshipper from Khafajah [Detail] - History

The Diyala statues
The Edgar and Deborah Jannotta Mesopotamian Gallery, the Oriental Institute Museum

How did the ancient Mesopotamians worship their gods? What do excavated artifacts tell us about religion in ancient Mesopotamia? What roles did women play in Mesopotamian religious life?
Dr. Kate Grossman, one of the presenters in the Women & Girls in the Ancient World: Their History, Our History May event, is taking us to ancient Mesopotamia. In this post, we will look at the Diyala statues, which are displayed in the Edgar and Deborah Jannotta Mesopotamian Gallery at the Oriental Institute Museum. Dr. Grossman shares her insights into the relationships between these artifacts and ancient religious life (especially that of women) in Mesopotamia.

Why were temples such an important part of life in ancient Mesopotamia?

Each Mesopotamian city had a patron god or goddess whose temple (the “house of the god”) played a major role in the life of the city. The gods were thought to control the universe, and they had to be cared for properly in order for the cosmos to continue functioning correctly. The care of the gods included making sure that their statues (which lived in the temples) were carefully clothed, fed, bathed, and prayed to. Beyond their religious functions, temples were also heavily invested in the economic life of the city they owned a great deal of land and employed vast numbers of people as farmers, craftsmen, scribes, and laborers.

What role did women play in Mesopotamian religious life?

Women played an active role in religious life and in temple administration. High-ranking royal women often served as priestesses, living a cloistered life in elaborate buildings within the temple precincts. Perhaps the most famous of these women was Enheduanna, a daughter of King Sargon of Akkad. Sargon installed Enheduanna as chief priestess of the moon god Nanna in the city of Ur. While serving Nanna, Enheduanna wrote many hymns and literary compositions, leading some to call her “the Sumerian Shakespeare.”

Suggested Guiding Questions and Basic Activities for Students

For Middle School Level:
A Photojournalism Project: My Once-Precious Object
These statues were sacred objects. When they were no longer used in the temple, they could not just be thrown out. Nevertheless, they had to be disposed of somehow. In this activity, you will write an essay about how you care for special objects that you no longer use.


The term 'Early Dynastic period' (ED) was coined by the archaeologist Henri Frankfort, analogous to the similarly named period in Egypt. [1] The periodization was developed in the 1930s during excavations that were conducted by Frankfort on behalf of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute on the archaeological sites of Tell Khafajah, Tell Agrab, and Tell Asmar in the Diyala River Region of Iraq. [2]

The ED Period was then divided into the sub-periods ED I, II, and III and were primarily based on complete changes through time in the plan of the Abu Temple of Tell Asmar, which had been rebuilt multiple times on exactly the same spot. [2] During the 1900s, many archaeologists also tried to impose the scheme of ED I—III upon archaeological remains excavated elsewhere in both Iraq and Syria dated to 3000—2000 BCE. However, accumulating evidence from sites elsewhere in Iraq has shown that the ED I—III periodization (as reconstructed for the Diyala River Region) could not be directly applied to other regions.

Research in Syria has shown that developments there were quite different from those in the Diyala Region or Southern Iraq, rendering the traditional Lower Mesopotamian chronology useless. During the 1990s and 2000s, attempts were made by various scholars to arrive at a local Upper Mesopotamian chronology, resulting in the Early Jezirah (EJ) 0—V chronology that encompasses everything from 3000—2000 BCE. [1] The use of the ED I—III chronology is now generally limited to Lower Mesopotamia, with the ED II period sometimes being further restricted to the Diyala region, or discredited altogether. [1] [2]

Part of the Pantheon of Eridu

Although there is little evidence at present for a cult dedicated to the worship of Nammu, it is known that she was associated with the pantheon of Eridu. It has been speculated that before Enki became the patron god of Eridu, it was Nammu who was the city’s patroness.

Although her importance as a goddess diminished over time, she continued to be held in high regard by the ancient Mesopotamians. As an example, the founder of the Sumerian Third Dynasty of Ur, Ur-Nammu, was named after her.

7,000 Years Ago, Ancient People Living In Mesopotamia Worshiped Lizard-Like Beings

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There are certain Pre-Sumerian artifacts, recovered from the archaeological site of Al-Ubaid that offer incredible details about early cultures inhabiting Mesopotamia.

At Al-Ubaid, archeological missions have excavated a number of ancient artifacts including statues of what experts describe as humanoid figures with lizard-like characteristics.

These artifacts date back to the so-called Ubaid Period of Mesopotamia.

The Ubaid Lizardmen

The Ubaid Period lasted from circa 6500 to 3800 BC, and its name derives from Tell al-‘Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted.

The Ubaidian culture dates back between 4,000 and 5,500 BC, and just as with the ancient Sumerians, the origin of the Ubaid people remains a mystery to archaeologists.

We do know, however, that it was the Ubaid Culture which started building large unwalled settlements, mainly characterized by their multi-room rectangular mud houses. This culture is also credited appearance of the first temples of public architecture in Mesopotamia, with a growth of a two-tier settlement hierarchy of centralized large sites of more than 10 hectares surrounded by smaller village sites of less than 1 hectare.

Archaeologists firmly agree that it was during the Ubaid Period when society moved towards urbanization. The Ubaid Culture built incredible T-shaped houses, open courtyards, paved streets, and used food processing tools.

Quickly, large unwalled settlements developed into towns. Temples were erected, and people changed their way of life. New technologies emerged, and history began to be written down like never before.

Today, thousands of years after the first ancient cities came to life in ancient Mesopotamia, archaeologists are putting together an ancient puzzle which tells an amazing story.

Tell Al’Ubaid and the worship of Lizard-like beings

Ancient Mesopotamia is rich in history. The ancient people that lived there thousands of years ago left behind numerous clues that offer us a glimpse into the lives of early cultures.

At the archeological site of Tell Al’Ubaid, and at the ancient cities of Ur and Eridu, archaeologists recovered a set of mysterious figures that have challenged our understanding of ancient cultures.

More than 7,000 years ago, the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia worshiped Reptilian-like beings.

Tell Al’Ubaid was first excavated by Harry Reginald Hal in 1919 , as he and his team recovered various male and female figurines were in different postures. Follow-up up excavation performed in 1923, 1924 and 1937 respectively.

What kind of beings did people in ancient Mesopotamia worship more than 7,000 years ago?

Archaeologists excavated a number of artifacts that helped understand this culture, but some items left archaeologists wondering.

Interestingly, scholars discovered that most of the figurines appear to be wearing a sort of helmet and have some kind of padding on the shoulders.

In addition to having excavated ancient figurines that resemble beings in spacesuits, archaeologists recovered various figurines of what appear to be female beings holding babies suckling milk. However, the being holding the baby is not human, but a reptile A Lizard-like creature with humanoid characteristics.

Some of the figurines excavated in ancient Mesopotamia are represented with elongated heads, almond-shaped eye, and reptilian-like features.

What the ancient people of Mesopotamia wanted to represent with these figurines remains a mystery.

Archaeologists have been stunned by these discoveries, and no explanation has been given as to why the Ubaid culture made these strange looking figurines worshiping lizard-like creatures.

Experts maintain how the postures of the figurines, as well as the fact that they depict female figure breastfeeding, does not suggest that the figurines were ritualistic objects. So, if the figurines were not ritualistic items, what were they used for, and what was ancient mankind trying to tell us?

Whatever the ancient people of Mesopotamia wanted to convey with these figurines was surely important.

But reptilian beings were not only important for the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia. No matter where we look, we will find similar depictions.

Lizard-like creatures have been present in many cultures in ancient cultures, from Quetzalcoatl, Kukulkan, who were the Aztec and Mayan deities represented in the form of a snake, to ancient petroglyphs located worldwide depicting strange looking beings just like the lizard-like figures in the Ubaid Culture.

Were they merely decorative items? The result of imagination? Or did the Ubaid culture really see lizard-like beings walking among them?

Statue of a Female Sumerian Worshipper from Khafajah [Detail] - History

Antiochus IV Epiphanes Bust

Antiochus IV (175-164 BC), was the 8th ruler of the Seleucid empire. He gave himself the surname "Epiphanes" which means "the visible god" (that he and Jupiter were identical). He acted as though he really were Jupiter and the people called him "Epimanes" meaning "the madman". He was violently bitter against the Jews, and was determined to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion. This led to the Maccabaean revolt, one of the most heroic feats in history. The Antiochus bust discovery is important in the study of Biblical archaeology, it reveals an image of the man who was mentioned in the Book of Daniel.

Antiochus IV usurped the throne of his brother Seleucus IV who died. Antiochus was determined to hellenize Israel and make them a people who were worthy of bordering Egypt, he needed a loyal hellenized population there. The Jews were quickly becoming more Greek than any other time in history. A group of Jews came to Antiochus with a plan. They proposed that the high priest Onias III should be removed and his hellenized brother Jason should take his place. They should set up a Greek Constitution and coin Greek money.

The plan was followed and all the Jews were outraged. It was the first time since the Babylonian Captivity that a non-Jewish government had interfered with the priesthood (treating the sacred office as though it were nothing other than a governmental office). But the worst was yet to come. Now the hellenizers had full control of the government in Jerusalem and they began to build gymnasiums within the city and encouraged the young to spent all their time there. The young priests engaged in sports, Jerusalem was filled with Greek styles, Greek clothes, Greek names, Greek language and worst of all, Greek religion and Greek morals.

The most radical hellenizers felt that things were not moving fast enough so they convinced Antiochus to remove Jason and replace him with Menelaus who was not even a member of the priestly family. Menelaus had no sympathy for the Jewish traditions whatsoever and was only concerned about his own power. The Temple treasury did not contain enough money to pay Antiochus what he had promised so he sold some of the holy vessels of the Temple to raise the money he needed. It was now the goal that Judaism was to be destroyed. In the mind of Antiochus to be un-hellenized was stiff-necked nonsense. If Judaism stood in the way then Judaism was to be destroyed so he gave the orders.

The Syrian army marched into Jerusalem and many of the people were killed and others escaped to the hills. Only the known Hellenists were allowed to remain. Orders were given: NO Sabbath, NO Holy Days, and NO Circumcision. A Statue of Zeus/Antiochus was placed in the Temple above the altar. The most detestable animals (the pig) were brought and sacrificed on the altar. An abominable act was perpetrated on Kislev 25, 168 BC according to the Book of Maccabees that "left the Jewish people desolate." (They call this the Abomination of Desolation in Daniel) but Jesus taught that this was a preliminary occurrence of a greater fulfillment coming in the last days, during the seventieth week of Daniel.

Inanna: A Sumerian national treasure

Based on the literary texts left behind by the Sumerians, it may be said that the most popular deity of the Sumerian pantheon was Inanna (known to the Assyrians and Babylonians as Ishtar). In many of the most famous and most often copied Sumerian stories, myths and hymns, one would find Inanna playing a prominent role. These include The Descent of Inanna , The Huluppu Tree , and Inanna and the God of Wisdom . It is from these texts that the nature of this goddess is known to us today. Inanna was worshipped as the goddess of sexuality, passion, love and war.

“Queen of the Night” relief. The depicted figure could be an aspect of the goddess Ishtar (Sumerian: Inanna) Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and war. ( Public Domain )

Historical Interpretation

What did ancient mankind try to depict with the 7,000-year-old Reptilian statues? Did these enigmatic beings really exist on Earth? Or are they the product of abstract ancient art? The truth behind the reptilian-like figurines is fascinating and has left scholars in awe, ever since their discovery nearly a century ago.

Is this video the ultimate proof that 7,000 years ago, ancient people worshiped reptilian-like deities? Were these statuettes the result of ancient art? Were they merely decorative items? The product of imagination? Alternatively, did the Ubaid culture actually see lizard-like beings walking among them? Interestingly, evidence of reptilian worship is not only found in Ancient Mesopotamia but numerous ancient cultures around the globe.

The enigmatic 7,000-year-old statuettes discovered by scientists in Mesopotamia show an odd resemblance to modern-day depictions of reptilian humanoids, and some have even suggested the worship of the Reptilian Gods is strictly connected to the Ancient Anunnaki.

The enigmatic statuettes were discovered at the archaeological site of Al-Ubaid. The Ubaid period is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia, the place where according to many, modern civilization was kick-started with the Sumerians. The Ubaidian culture in Mesopotamia is believed to date back to around 4,000 and 5,500 BC. Strangely, just as with the Sumerians, the origin of the Ubaidian culture remains a profound mystery for modern day scholars. It is as if these ancient cultures came into existence from one day to the other.

Interestingly, according to scholars, it was during this period that numerous advancements were made by ancient society. During this time, our ancestors started acting and thinking differently. This evolution in thinking brought the Ubaid Culture towards social improvement settlements became larger towns irrigation methods were advanced tools were upgraded, and all of this in combination, led to the construction of the first monuments monumental buildings, kick starting ‘modern’ society.

However, the leap forward in society was not the most notorious thing researchers discovered. Among the numerous artifacts recovered at the site, mysterious humanoid figurines with strange lizard-like characteristics, both male and female took researchers by surprise. The lizard-like features seen in the statues are unlike anything previously discovered.

The statuettes depicted humanoid figurines with pointy faces and almond-shaped eyes. Archaeologists have been stunned by these discoveries, and no explanation has been given as to why the Ubaid culture made these strange looking figurines worshiping lizard-like creatures.

Looking back at our history, we will find that reptilian worship isn’t exclusive to ancient Mesopotamia. In fact, Lizard-like creatures have been present in many cultures in ancient cultures, from Quetzalcoatl, Kukulkan, who were Aztec and Mayan deities represented in the form of a snake, to ancient petroglyphs located worldwide depicting strange looking beings just like the lizard-like figures in the Ubaid Culture. Interestingly, the ancient Sumerians represented one of their most important deities ‘Enki’ as a serpent god. In later periods, the symbol of the snake was adopted in the brotherhood of the snake.

If we travel half way around the world, from Mesopotamia to the Pacific Coast we will find extremely interesting details present in the Hopi culture. According to legend, 5,000 years ago a meteor shower caused strange beings, described as the lizard people to seek refuge underground. These creatures constructed an elaborate network of tunnels located under Los Angeles, using advanced technologies that could even melt rock.

Mesopotamia’s Artistic Influence Before, Amidst, and Following Egypt’s Nubian Renaissance

In the very back of the Princeton Art Museum’s lowest floor resides it’s small but prestigious Egyptian art collection, featuring a similarly small sculpture titled, Bust of Isis . At first glance the subject can be recognized—her positioning, stance, and decoration all suggest that she is Isis, the Egyptian goddess, mother, and healer. While only the upper half of Isis’ body remains, her rounded wig, face, remaining arms, and breasts display her femininity, and her frontal positioning immediately advertises her clear greatness and power. The magnesite bust was created ca. 750-656 BCE during Egypt’s 25th Dynasty, a period of political, cultural, and artistic renaissance, and presumably served as a worship statue for the goddess’ ever growing cult. Despite its creation during an unprecedented cultural revolution within an already unique civilization, the bust displays countless elements coined by Mesopotamian artists up to a millennium prior. This relationship becomes apparent through comparison with a traditional Mesopotamian, specifically ancient Sumerian, worship statue— The Votive Statue of Gudea , which similarly advertises many visual elements traditional to its time of ca. 2090 BCE. Through close visual analysis of the Bust of Isis and its Sumerian predecessor, the differences between the cultures and their artistries fade in comparison to the great similarities. The 25th Dynasty’s remarkable artistic growth, as applied in the Bust of Isis, can be directly connected to that of Mesopotamia’s as a whole through analysis of historical context, style, and physical properties of the Votive Statue of Gudea and the Bust of Isis.

People of both Mesopotamian and ancient Egyptian religion passionately valued deities, and although they may differ in kind, these deities held an extremely high importance within both cultures, accounting for the creation of countless presumable worship statues. Within Mesopotamian civilizations these statues often depicted present rulers, fellow worshippers, and occasionally the gods or goddesses themselves. As one of Mesopotamia’s most representative and well-preserved examples of this artistic type, the statue of Gudea depicts the admired ruler of the Sumerian city-state of Lagash, and serves as a “vehicle” for prayers and offerings to reach the divine when placed in a temple dedicated to a specific god or goddess herself (Kleiner 43). While ancient Egyptians actively worshipped their Pharaohs, or “gods on earth”, the gods and goddesses themselves maintained their immeasurable value, even in a time of growth and development like the 25th Dynasty. This period was marked by the conquest of Egypt by the Kushite king’s—neighboring Nubian kings previously influenced by Egypt—who encouraged a new and prosperous Egypt. Despite its creation during this fascinating period, the Bust of Isis existed with the same purpose as the statue of Gudea. Undeniably a cult statue, the bust would have been worshipped privately or within one of the goddesses’ dedicated temples throughout Egypt, where one could “connect” with her various magical abilities through the statue (Kleiner 81). These abilities regarded fertility, motherhood, marriage, healing, and magic, which drew followers and worshippers of all kinds—at times primarily women seeking her assistance and divine powers. Traditions among the two cultures, in regards to religious and worship practices, remained consistent throughout centuries—Egypt’s customs directly stemming and not straying from Mesopotamia’s, as seen from the historical contexts and purposes of the two statues.

Gudea and Isis are unquestionably the subjects of both worship statues, an absolute made possible by distinct features and iconography, unique to each subject but familiar within both periods. In his statue, Gudea wears a signature coiled, fleece hat and one-shoulder garment, an ensemble that can be seen in almost all of the ruler’s known portraits. In combination with the overflowing vase that Gudea holds firmly in his hands—a symbol of prosperity and often divinity throughout Mesopotamian art—one can identify the statue’s subject instantly, and additionally assume his generosity towards, and greatness within, his culture. Symbolism and signature features were almost always present in Mesopotamian worship statues, clearly differentiating portrayals of rulers from worshippers, and worshippers from gods (Kleiner 42). The Bust of Isis’ defining features lie within her middle, which were close to being lost entirely, but still successfully convey the intended effect. Isis’ right arm extends across her chest and holds her breast, a telltale sign of her divine identity. Throughout Egyptian art this pose is often completed with Isis’ well-known son, Horus, held in her left arm—a slight bend in the remaining upper-arm suggests that this was likely the case. Isis can also be recognized at the time of the bust’s creation due to her unique African facial features—her rounded face, plump lips, and wider nose all reflect the features of Egypt’s current population, making the statue even more distinct during its prime period of use. In contrast, Isis wears a large, curled wig which falls heavily around her face and down her back, known as a “Hathor wig”—not yet one of Isis’ identifying features at the time of the bust’s creation. Rather than wearing her traditional headdress Isis is depicted wearing the cow goddess Hathor’s signature wig, as 25th Dynasty artists chose to reference a previous, celebrated time in Egyptian art, and in turn transferred much of Hathor’s iconography to Isis during later years. Although Mesopotamian worship statues may range in subject, material, and even style, they all contain distinct features that make their common origin clear. One of these features, which is evident in both the statue of Gudea and the Bust of Isis, is their firm, front-facing stance. Both statues radiate strength with their upright, static posture, seemingly unmoving from their places. We must assume that the missing lower-half of Isis’s statue would portray her seated on a throne, as the goddess’ name translates literally to “throne”, and would contribute to her strong and unwavering focus directly forward, possibly at the viewer. These worship statues employ similar, Mesopotamian-developed, techniques to express the subject’s identity—their dress, posture, and placement all unique to the subject but not to the artistic type.

Lastly, the beautiful physical properties of the Bust of Isis, once again, stem straight from the properties of original Mesopotamian worship statues, properties which the statue of Gudea perfectly exhibits. The statue of Gudea was made of diorite and carved in the round, a combination that required immense effort and money due to the material’s difficulty to carve, thus advertising Gudea’s wealth and admiration. Magnesite, the material used for the Bust of Isis, was chosen for a different reason, but intentionally nonetheless. Reasonably easier to carve than diorite, the magnesite used for the bust appears as a sort of yellow, brown, green mix of color under the museum’s lighting, but it is know that it’s primarily green coloring signifies fertility—one of Isis’ areas of divine ability. The strong and polishable materials used in both, and consistently throughout Mesopotamian and Egyptian art, take well to intricate carving of details, as seen in Isis’ perfected facial features, firm curls of hair, and fingers realistically clutching onto her breast. Her rounded, polished upper body portrays health and femininity to the viewer, while her facial features, carved in low-relief, are subtle and endearing, even showing a hint of a smile—a realistic element also shown through Gudea’s large, emotion-filled eyes. The statue’s smoothness and simplicity, despite defining details, suggest Isis’ peaceful, almost relaxed presence—creating the perfect balance in combination with her previously mentioned upright stance. The statue of Gudea continues to exhibit all of the above properties in common with the Bust of Isis, showing that even in a time of artistic flourish, Mesopotamia’s signature physical properties—treasured material, soft facial features, careful detail, and a smooth, polished finish—are extremely present in the 25th Dynasty’s artistry.

While ancient Egypt may have veered from Mesopotamian culture in various ways, including art in that statement can quickly be proven false. Even in Egypt’s most revolutionary cultural period, Mesopotamian influence is still undeniable and as strong as ever. Through analysing and comparing the Votive Statue of Gudea and the Bust of Isis—surprisingly created nearly 14 centuries apart—the underestimated relationship between two cultures, even when amidst a renaissance, can not be denied.



Early Dynastic stone sculptures have mainly been recovered from excavated temples. They can be separated into two groups: three-dimensional prayer statues and perforated bas-reliefs. The so-called Tell Asmar Hoard is a well-known example of Early Dynastic sculpture. It was recovered in a temple and consists of standing figures with their hands folded in prayer or holding a goblet for a libation ritual. Other statues feature seated figures also in devotional postures. Male figures wear a plain or fringed dress, or kaunakes. ⎟] Ζ] The statues usually represent notables or rulers. They served as ex-votos and were placed in temples to pray on behalf of the spender. The Sumerian style clearly influenced neighbouring regions, as similar statues have been recovered from sites in Upper Mesopotamia, including Assur, Tell Chuera, and Mari. However, some statues showed greater originality and had less stylistic characteristics in common with Sumerian sculpture. ⎨] Ζ] ⎟]

Statue of a male figure, recovered from Tell Asmar

Statue of a female figure, recovered from Khafajah

Statue of a kneeling male figure holding a vase, recovered from Tell Agrab

Statue of Ebih-Il, recovered from Mari (ED IIIb)

Stone statue of Kurlil, Early Dynastic III, 2500 BC Tell Al-'Ubaid.

Bas-reliefs created from perforated stone slabs are another hallmark of Early Dynastic sculpture. They also served a votive purpose, but their exact function is unknown. ⎨] Ζ] Examples include the votive relief of king Ur-Nanshe of Lagash and his family found at Girsu and that of Dudu, a priest of Ningirsu. The latter showed mythological creatures such as a lion-headed eagle. ⎟] The Stele of the Vultures, created by Eannatum of Lagash, is remarkable in that it represents different scenes that together tell the narrative of the victory of Lagash over its rival Umma. ⏕] Reliefs like these have been found in Lower Mesopotamia and the Diyala region but not in Upper Mesopotamia or Syria.

Bas-relief of a banquet and boating scene, unknown provenience

Bas-relief of a banquet scene, recovered from Tell Agrab

Banquet scene, Khafajah, 2650-2550 BCE

Votive relief of the priest Dudu, of the time of Entemena, recovered from Girsu. Circa 2400 BCE

Metalworking and goldsmithing

Sumerian metallurgy and goldsmithing were highly developed. Ζ] ⎨] This is all the more remarkable for a region where metals had to be imported. Known metals included gold, silver, copper, bronze, lead, electrum, and tin. The use of binary, tertiary, and quaternary alloys were already in use during the Uruk period. Sumerians used bronze, although the scarcity of tin meant that they used arsenic instead. Metalworking techniques included lost-wax casting, plating, filigree, and granulation.

Numerous metal objects have been excavated from temples and graves, including dishes, weapons, jewelry, statuettes, foundation nails, and various other objects of worship. The most remarkable gold objects come from the Royal Cemetery at Ur, including musical instruments and the complete inventory of Puabi’s tomb. Metal vases have also been excavated at other sites in Lower Mesopotamia, including the Vase of Entemena at Lagash. ⎟]

Vessel stand in the shape of an ibex. Copper-based alloy with nacre and lapis lazuli inlays, created with the lost-wax method (ED III)

Reconstructed headgear of Puabi, found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur (ED III)

Animal-shaped pendants of gold, lapis lazuli and carnelian from Eshnunna

Cylinder seals

Cylinder seals were used to authenticate documents like sales and to control access by sealing a lump of clay on doors of storage rooms. The use of cylinder seals increased significantly during the ED period, suggesting an expansion and increased the complexity of administrative activities.

During the preceding Uruk period, a wide variety of scenes were engraved on cylinder seals. This variety disappeared at the start of the third millennium, to be replaced by an almost exclusive focus on mythological and cultural scenes in Lower Mesopotamia and the Diyala region. Ζ] ⎟] During the ED I period, seal designs included geometric motifs and stylized pictograms. Later on, combat scenes between real and mythological animals became the dominant theme, together with scenes of heroes fighting animals. Their exact meaning is unclear. Common mythological creatures include anthropomorphic bulls and scorpion-men. Real creatures include lions and eagles. Some anthropomorphic creatures are probably deities, as they wear a horned tiara, which was a symbol of divinity.

Scenes with cultic themes, including banquet scenes, became common during ED II. Another common ED III theme was the so-called god-boat, but its meaning is unclear. During the ED III period, ownership of seals was started to be registered. Glyptic development in Upper Mesopotamia and Syria was strongly influenced by Sumerian art. Ζ]


Examples of inlay have been found at several sites and used materials such as nacre (mother of pearl), white and coloured limestone, lapis lazuli, and marble. Bitumen was used to attach the inlay in wooden frames, but these have not survived in the archaeological record. ⎟] ⎨] The inlay-panels usually showed mythological or historical scenes. Like bas-reliefs, these panels allow the reconstruction of early forms of narrative art. However, this type of work seems to have been abandoned in subsequent periods.

The best preserved inlaid object is the Standard of Ur found in one of the royal tombs of this city. It represents two principal scenes on its two sides: a battle and a banquet that probably follows a military victory. ⎟] ⎨] The "dairy frieze" found at Tell al-'Ubaid represents, as its name suggests, dairy activities (milking cows, cowsheds, preparing dairy products). It is our source of the most information on this practice in ancient Mesopotamia ⏖]

Similar mosaic elements were discovered at Mari, where a mother-of-pearl engraver's workshop was identified, and at Ebla where marble fragments were found from a 3-meter-high panel decorating a room of the royal palace. ⎨] The scenes of the two sites have strong similarities in their style and themes. In Mari the scenes are military (a parade of prisoners) or religious (a ram's sacrifice). In Ebla, they show a military triumph and mythological animals.


The Lyres of Ur (or Harps of Ur) are considered to be the world's oldest surviving stringed instruments. In 1929, archaeologists led by Leonard Woolley discovered the instruments when excavating the Royal Cemetery of Ur between from 1922 and 1934. They discovered pieces of three lyres and one harp in Ur located in what was Ancient Mesopotamia and now is Iraq. ⏗] ⏘] They are over 4,500 years old ⏙] from ancient Mesopotamia during the ED III. ⏚] The decorations on the lyres are fine examples of the court Art of Mesopotamia of the period. ⏛]

Watch the video: Standing Male Worshipper from Tell Asmar (January 2022).