Mosaic column

From the Temple of Ninhursag, Tell al-'Ubaid, southern Iraq, about 2600-2400 BC

One of several columns set up to decorate the front of the temple

This mosaic column was excavated by H.R. Hall in 1919 at the small site of Tell al-'Ubaid, close to the remains of the city of Ur. Along with other material, it was found at the foot of a mud brick platform which had originally supported a temple dedicated to the goddess Ninhursag. The column had apparently fallen from the front of the temple and lay buried in the debris. Further columns were discovered when the site was excavated again by Leonard Woolley a few years later. Some of them were over three metres high. It is possible that they may have been set up either side of the entrance to the temple.

The column was formed from palm logs covered with a coating of bitumen about one centimetre thick. Against this were pressed tesserae of mother-of-pearl, pink limestone, and black shale. Each tessera had a copper wire passed through a loop at the back of it and the ends twisted into a ring. The wire was then sunk into the bitumen for attachment. Woolley found that the columns were exactly the same diameter as modern petrol drums and so sections of tesserae, held in place by bandages dipped in wax, were wrapped around empty drums to restore their original shape.

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More information


C.L. Woolley and P.R.S. Moorey, Ur of the Chaldees, revised edition (Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1982)

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)


Height: 115.000 cm

Museum number

ME 115328


Excavated by H.R. Hall


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