Limestone statue of a woman
Kingdom of Lagash, about 2500
From Tello (ancient Girsu), southern Iraq
Probably a votive donation in a temple
This is a typical figure which was set up in temples to represent their donor in prayer before the gods. They appear in different forms, both male and female, and depict a variety of hair styles and costumes. It is not known whether they reflect any likeness of the donor, but they usually have stylized features, especially very large eyes. The hands are nearly always clasped in front of their chest, perhaps in a gesture of reverence. They were often buried in the structure of the building, perhaps after the sanctuary had become too crowded, or the donor had died. Because of this they are often discovered by archaeologists long after the walls of the temple have collapsed.
This figure comes from the city of Tello (ancient Girsu) in southern Iraq, which was part of the kingdom of Lagash. The site was among the earliest Sumerian cities to be explored in the nineteenth century and some of the excavation was not done to the standards that archaeologists expect today. However, many temple buildings were found and their associated monuments were recovered. In addition inscriptions from this site and elsewhere have enabled a list of the rulers of Lagash to be reconstructed.
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)