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Man carrying a box, possibly for offerings

Early Dynastic I-II
ca. 2900–2600 B.C.
Copper alloy
H. 37.8 x W. 12.3 x D. 9.7 cm (14 7/8 x 4 7/8 x 3 7/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1955
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Temples were the most important institutions in Mesopotamian cities of the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 B.C.). Each city had a patron deity, whose temple was built on a large platform and was visible for great distances in the flat countryside. The temple was literally a house for the god and a place of ritual, but it was also the most significant economic institution of the time, with large numbers of laborers to work its fields, produce goods for use in the temple, and to trade with distant lands. Temple building had its own series of rituals, including purifying the ground on which the temple would stand and dedicating foundation deposits to the resident god.

    This figure of a nude man carrying a box on his head is a fine example of Sumerian sculpture in metal. Only certain categories of people were represented as nude in the Early Dynastic period: priests, athletes, mythological heroes, and prisoners of war. This figure, reminiscent of scenes depicting priests carrying offerings, carries an object that might be a temple foundation deposit or offering related to its building.

  • Provenance

    [By 1950, Elias S. David, New York]; acquired by the Museum in 1955, purchased from Elias S. David, New York.

  • References

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1956. "Notes." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (1), opposite p.1.

    Crawford, Vaughn E. 1960. "The Third Millenium B.C." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 18 (8), Art of the Ancient Near East (Apr., 1960), p. 248, fig. 6.

    Crawford, Vaughn E. 1965. "Some Notes from an Excavation." Apollo LXXXII, No. 43 (September 1965), p. 213, fig. 4.

    Crawford, Vaughn E. et al. 1966. Guide to the Ancient Near East Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 9, fig. 12.

    Canby, Jeany Vorys. 1968. "The Pedigree of a Syrian Bronze in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Some Stylistic Crosscurrents in the Late Third Millennium B.C." Berytus 17, pp. 115f.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1972. Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 43, no. 2.

    Hansen, Donald P. 1975. "Frühsumerische und frühdynastiche Rundplastik." In Der Alte Orient, edited by Winfried Orthmann. Propyläen Kunstgeschichte, Vol. 14. Berlin: Propyläen, p. 170, pl. 10b.

    Spycket, Agnès. 1981. La Statuaire du Proche-Orient Ancien. Leiden, Köln: E.J. Brill, p. 59, pl. 40.

    Moorey, Peter R.S. 1982. "The Archaeological Evidence for Metallurgy and Related Technologies in Mesopotamia, c. 5500-2100 B.C." Iraq 44 (1), p. 28

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1983. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, edited by Kathleen Howard. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 51, fig. 15.

    Imai, Ayako. 1983. In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 1.

    Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, pp. 11, 13, fig. 7.

    Pittman, Holly, in collaboration with Joan Aruz. 1987. Ancient Art in Miniature: Near Eastern Seals from the Collection of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 22-23, fig. 10.

    Muscarella, Oscar W. 1988. Bronze and Iron: Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 323-327, no. 464.

    Invernizzi, Antonio. 1992. Dal Tigri All-Eufrate I: Sumeri E Accadi. Firenze: Casa editrice Le lettere, p. 306, fig. 474.

    Calmeyer, Peter. 1995. "Buchbesprechungen: Muscarella, Oscar W., Bronze and Iron. Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie 85 (1), p. 158.

    Arux, Joan. 2000. "Hombre con una caja en la cabeza." In La fundación de la ciudad: Mesopotamia, Grecia, Roma, exh. cat. edited by Pedro Azaro. Barcelona: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, no. 11, pp. 74-76.

    Lapérouse, Jean-François de. 2003. "Striding male figure with a box on his head." In Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, exh. cat. edited by Joan Aruz, with Ronald Wallenfels. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 38, pp. 79-80.

    Graff, Sarah. 2012. "Hombre portando una caja, posiblemente de ofrendas." In Antes del Diluvio: Mesopotamia 3500-2100 A.C., exh. cat. Barcelona: Obra Social "la Caixa", Polígrafa, p. 171.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History