Cylinder seal of Pu-abi

From Ur, southern Iraq
Around 2600 BC

The seal of the 'Queen'

This cylinder seal was discovered in the 'Queen's Grave' in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. It is engraved with a banquet scene. It has been suggested that this indicates that the owner was female, while a man's seal would have been engraved with a combat scene. Indeed, the cuneiform inscription on this seal reads 'Pu-abi nin'. The Sumerian word 'nin' can be translated as either 'lady' or 'queen'. It is possible that Pu-abi (previously read as Shub-ad) may have been a high priestess in the service of the moon god, Nanna, patron of Ur.

The seal was found against the right arm of Pu-abi's body, together with two other seals and three gold pins, which were presumably used to secure her cloak. The cylinders were perhaps tied to the pins: the typical way of carrying seals.

The seal is made from lapis lazuli, which would have come from Afghanistan. This not only shows the extensive trade routes that existed at this time, but also how important Pu-abi was, owning an object made of such an exotic material.

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Cylinder seal of Pu-abi

  • Reconstruction of the burial shaft, showing the queen's retinue and the ox drivers (1928)

    Reconstruction of the burial shaft, showing the queen's retinue and the ox drivers (1928)


More information


D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

M. Roaf, Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia (New York, 1990)

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

D. Collon, First impressions: cylinder se (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Height: 4.900 cm
Diameter: 2.600 cm

Museum number

ME 121544


Excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley


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