العربية

Queen's Lyre

From Ur, southern Iraq, about 2600-2400 BC

Music for the afterlife

Leonard Woolley discovered several lyres in the graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. This was one of two that he found in the grave of 'Queen' Pu-abi. Along with the lyre, which stood against the pit wall, were the bodies of ten women with fine jewellery, presumed to be sacrificial victims, and numerous stone and metal vessels. One woman lay right against the lyre and, according to Woolley, the bones of her hands were placed where the strings would have been.

The wooden parts of the lyre had decayed in the soil, but Woolley poured plaster of Paris into the depression left by the vanished wood and so preserved the decoration in place. The front panels are made of lapis lazuli, shell and red limestone originally set in bitumen. The gold mask of the bull decorating the front of the sounding box had been crushed and had to be restored. While the horns are modern, the beard, hair and eyes are original and made of lapis lazuli.

This musical instrument was originally reconstructed as part of a unique 'harp-lyre', together with a harp from the burial, now also in The British Museum. Later research showed that this was a mistake. A new reconstruction, based on excavation photographs, was made in 1971-72.

A similar bull-lyre is depicted on the Standard of Ur.

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Queen's Lyre

  • Lyre facing left

    Lyre facing left

  • Decoration detail

    Decoration detail

  • 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

Bibliography

J. Rimmer, Ancient musical instruments of (London, The British Museum Press, 1969)

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

Dimensions

Height: 112.000 cm

Museum number

ME 121198a

WCO24684

Excavated by C.L. Woolley

Location

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