Stone vessel

From Ur, southern Iraq
About 2600-2400 BC

Discovered in the Queen's Grave

This fine vessel was discovered by the excavator Leonard Woolley in the grave of 'Queen' Pu-abi in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. It lay on the floor of the pit among other stone and metal bowls.

The British Museum has analysed the stone and identified it as travertine (calcite). Varieties of this stone were among the commonest used for vessels in the graves, ranging from ordinary limestone to the finest calcite, richly veined and beautifully coloured, or a plain translucent stone. Compared with stone vessels found in other burials and ordinary houses, greater care and skill were taken with the manufacture of stone vessels in the Royal Cemetery.

The details of production are poorly known. They have to be reconstructed from Egypt, where there is better evidence for quarrying, of surviving tools, excavated workshops, and illustrations of craft procedures in tomb reliefs. It is almost certain that this vase was first roughly chipped to shape, then hollowed out using a bow-drill, and finally the exterior was finely cut, and all the surfaces polished.

Stone vessels manufactured in Mesopotamia rarely have external decoration, perhaps because they were often carried in a case of plaited straw or basket work.

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Stone vessel

  • 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


P.R.S. Moorey, Ancient Mesopotamian materials (Oxford, 1994)

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


Height: 12.500 cm
Diameter: 23.000 cm (rim)
Diameter: 23.000 cm (rim)

Museum number

ME 121717



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