Crushed skull and head-dress

From Ur, southern Iraq
About 2600-2400 BC

The excavator Leonard Woolley discovered this skull in the 'Great Death-Pit' in the cemetery at Ur. Rubble remains in the Great Death-Pit suggest that the chamber had been destroyed when the tomb was plundered. Against one wall of the pit lay the bodies of five men carrying knives or axes. The other sixty-eight occupants of the pit were women. This skull comes from a woman's body numbered by Woolley as 53. It had been crushed by the weight of the soil during burial.

The woman's head-dress consists of gold hair-ribbons and pendants, a silver comb with inlaid flowers, gold ear-rings, and a collar and necklace of gold and lapis lazuli, together with a silver pin with gold and lapis lazuli head. Woolley poured wax over the remains to hold them together when they were lifted out of the ground.

Woolley also found cockle-shells beside the woman's body, with green paint which may have been used as a cosmetic. There were also the remains of a copper and a limestone bowl, which may have contained a poison taken by the woman.

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More information


C.L. Woolley and others, Ur Excavations, vol. II: The R (London, The British Museum Press, 1934)

T.C. Mitchell, Sumerian art: illustrated by o (London, The British Museum Press, 1969)


Museum number

ME 122294



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