History of Assyrian palace sculptures, £9.99
Headdress and necklace of gold, lapis lazuli and cornelian
From Grave 800, the Royal Cemetery of Ur, southern Iraq
Early Dynastic III, about 2600 BC
Dug outside the walls of the city, the so-called 'Royal Cemetery' at Ur was built over by the walls of Nebuchadnezzar's larger city about 2,000 years later. Some 1,840 burials were found, dating to between 2600 BC and 2000 BC. They ranged from simple inhumations, with the body rolled in a mat, to elaborate burials in domed tombs reached by descending ramps. Seventeen of these early burials Leonard Woolley, the exacavator, called 'Royal Graves' because of the rich grave-goods and the bodies of retainers, apparently sacrificed.
This jewellery comes from one of the richest tombs at Ur. It was the burial place of Pu-abi, her name recorded on a fine cylinder seal of lapis lazuli. She lay on a wooden bier, a gold cup near her hand, the upper part of her body entirely hidden by multi-coloured beads. She wore an elaborate headdress. Buried with her were the bodies of 25 attendants, laid out in rows, and oxen which had been harnessed to vehicles. An adjacent tomb with no principal occupant had 65 attendants. Even more bodies were found in the tomb known as the Great Death Pit, which was occupied by six servants, four women harpists and 64 other women, dressed in scarlet and adorned with gold, silver, lapis lazuli and cornelian. The attendants may have voluntarily taken poison and were buried while unconscious or dead.
Other Views: Reconstruction of the burial shaft, showing the queen's retinue and the ox drivers (A. Forestier, 1928)
C. Trümpler (ed.), Agatha Christie and archaeolog (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)