Alabaster head

From the Grey Eye Temple, Tell Brak, north-eastern Syria, about 3500-3300 BC

Probably a votive object

Most Mesopotamian buildings were made of mud brick. Over time they needed to be restored or replaced as the bricks decayed. Over the years, a building might be rebuilt many times. The buildings were thus gradually raised higher by resting on the remains of the earlier structures, forming a 'tell'.

Max Mallowan excavated a temple at Tell Brak (known today as the Eye Temple), which had been rebuilt many times. Because temples were places where valuable offerings were either left for the gods or buried in the structure of the building, they were targets for robbers. A robbers' tunnel, cutting through the remains of the earlier temples, was discovered, and in the remains was this small stone head.

It is likely that the head originally had attachments, perhaps of precious metals and stones. A head-dress may have been attached over the hair, which is shown with a centre parting. As is typical of Mesopotamian sculpture, the eyebrows join over the nose. A vertical groove at the back of the head with nail holes on the sides suggests it was originally attached to a pole.

There is nothing to indicate whether it represents a god, goddess or worshipper.

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More information


J.E. Reade, Mesopotamia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

M.E.L. Mallowan, 'Excavations at Brak and Chagar Bazar, Syria', Iraq-1, 9 (1947)

C. Trümpler (ed.), Agatha Christie and archaeolog (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)


Height: 17.000 cm

Museum number

ME 126460


Excavated by M.E.L. Mallowan


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