Shell plaque

From Ur, southern Iraq
About 2600-2400 BC

From the 'Queen's Grave'

This shell plaque comes from the grave of 'Queen' Pu-abi in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. It was found with a silver bull's head which was inlaid with shell and lapis lazuli. It was presumably part of the decoration of a lyre or harp. Shell, often combined with different coloured stones, was one of the most popular ways of decorating objects in Sumer. Wooden items such as fine musical instruments, and pieces of furniture, as well as pillars and wall panels were decorated in this way. Bitumen was used as a glue.

Animal scenes are silhouetted on the shell, with the background and details of engraving filled in with bitumen. The scenes are typical of this period, although rearing goats are a motif known from all periods of Mesopotamian art.

The shell probably came from the Gulf. 

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Shell plaque-1

  • 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

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

T.C. Mitchell, Sumerian art: illustrated by o (London, The British Museum Press, 1969)

Dimensions

Length: 4.400 cm
Width: 4.400 cm

Museum number

ME 121529

WCO24678

Location

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