Height: 13.500 cm
Weight: 241.000 g
Room 56: Mesopotamia
Rein ring of gold and silver
From Ur, southern Iraq, about 2600-2400 BC
From the 'Queen's Grave'
This rein ring is one of several found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. Leonard Woolley, the archaeologist, discovered the remains of a sledge in the 'Queen's Grave', partly decorated with a mosaic of shell, lapis lazuli and red limestone and gold heads of lions and bulls. This rein ring was found among the bones of the two oxen lying in front of the sledge. It would have originally been fixed to a wooden pole, now decayed, running from the front of the chariot or sledge between the animals. The reins were threaded through the rings to collars worn by the oxen.
Some of the earliest evidence for sledges and wheeled vehicles comes from southern Mesopotamia around 3200 BC. A little later, a lighter cart developed which could be drawn by donkeys. A cart like this is depicted on the Standard of Ur, and the reins are shown threaded through rein rings.
The two rings and the pin to fit the pole are made of silver. Fixed to the top of the rings is an image of a donkey or wild ass made of electrum (a natural alloy of gold and silver) by casting. It was discovered bent over at right angles and with two of the legs snapped.
C.L. Woolley and P.R.S. Moorey, Ur of the Chaldees, revised edition (Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1982)
C.L. Woolley and others, Ur Excavations, vol. II: The R (London, The British Museum Press, 1934)