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Early Dynastic IIIa
ca. 2600–2500 B.C.
Mesopotamia, Ur (modern Tell al-Muqayyar)
Gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian
L. 15 1/8 in. (38.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Dodge Fund, 1933
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Kings and nobles became increasingly powerful and independent of temple authority during the course of the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 B.C.), although the success of a king's reign was considered to depend on support from the gods. A striking measure of royal wealth was the cemetery in the city of Ur, in which sixteen royal tombs were excavated in the 1920s and 1930s by Sir Leonard Woolley. These tombs consisted of a vaulted burial chamber for the king or queen, an adjoining pit in which as many as seventy-four attendants were buried, and a ramp leading into the grave from the ground.

    This delicate chaplet of gold leaves separated by lapis lazuli and carnelian beads adorned the forehead of one of the female attendants in the so-called King's Grave. In addition, the entombed attendants wore necklaces of gold and lapis lazuli, gold hair ribbons, and silver hair rings. Since gold, silver, lapis, and carnelian are not found in Mesopotamia, the presence of these rich adornments in the royal tomb attests to the wealth of the Early Dynastic kings as well as to the existence of a complex system of trade that extended far beyond the Mesopotamian River valley.

  • Provenance

    1927-1928, excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley on behalf of the Joint Expedition of the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum; ceded to the University Museum in the division of finds; acquired by the Museum in 1933, purchased from the University Museum.

  • References

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1933. Notes: Sumerian Jewelry. Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 28 (6), p. 114.

    Woolley, C. Leonard. 1934. The Royal Cemetery: A Report on the Predynastic and Sargonic Graves Excavated between 1926 and 1931. Ur Excavations, Vol. II. London, pp. 67, 560 (U.10584).

    Dimand, Maurice S. and H.E. McAllister. 1944. Near Eastern Jewelry, a picture book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 1.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1983. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, edited by Kathleen Howard. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 52, fig. 16.

    Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, pp. 48-49, fig. 66.

    McConnell, Sophie. 1991. Metropolitan Jewelry. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 52-53.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History