Length: 69.850 cm
Height: 22.220 cm
Excavated by H.R.H. Hall
Room 56: Mesopotamia
From the Temple of Ninhursag, Tell al-'Ubaid, southern Iraq, around 2600 BC
Decoration for the temple façade
This frieze was discovered at the small site of Tell al-'Ubaid, close to the remains of the city of Ur. It 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, among debris which may have fallen from the temple on top.
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 panel was found in good condition, with the borders preserved. It is formed from a wooden board, which had decayed, covered with strips of copper secured with copper nails. The area between the borders was covered with bitumen and the figures were pressed into it. The bulls are made in one piece of Tridacna shell with the legs and head carved separately. The background was filled with black shale cut to shape. All the pieces of inlay were in place when it was found, except the body of the last bull which had been forced away from its backing and lay in three pieces.
Several more or less complete sections of panel were found, along with numerous scattered figures and fragments from a second frieze which had ornamented the façade of the temple.
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)