Length: 60.960 cm
Height: 60.960 cm
Excavated by Leonard Woolley
Room 56: Mesopotamia
Copper figure of a bull
From the Temple of Ninhursag, Tell al-'Ubaid, southern Iraq, around 2600 BC
Decoration for the temple façade
This bull was discovered in 1923 by Leonard Woolley at the small site of Tell al-'Ubaid, close to the remains of the city of Ur. The bull was found among a group of objects at the foot of a mud brick platform. The platform had originally supported a temple building dedicated to the goddess Ninhursag. The objects were found beside the platform-stairs. The bull had been squashed flat by the weight of the brickwork which had fallen from the temple above.
Ninhursag was a mother goddess and her name means 'lady of the steppe land' where cows were put out to pasture. It is appropriate that her temple should have been decorated with bulls and cows.
The body of the bull originally had a wooden core, now decayed, which was covered in a thin layer of bitumen. Over this was hammered thin sheet copper (probably from Iran or Oman) secured with copper nails.
Four bulls were found at the site but only two were in a good state of preservation (the second is now in the University of Phildelphia Museum). Because the copper was in such a fragile state, Leonard Woolley poured wax over the remains and covered it in bandages so that the metal was kept in place when lifted from the ground. Modern restorations include one horn, a section in the middle of the tail and part of the modelling of the hooves.
H.R. Hall and C.L. Woolley, Ur Excavations, vol. I: Al-Uba (London, Oxford University Press, 1927)
T.C. Mitchell, Sumerian art: illustrated by o (London, The British Museum Press, 1969)