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Terracotta figure of a woman suckling a child

 

Height: 13.800 cm
Width: 4.900 cm

ME 122873

Room 56: Mesopotamia

    Terracotta figure of a woman suckling a child

    Ubaid culture, about 4500 BC
    From Ur, southern Iraq

    A 'lizard' figurine

    Leonard Woolley found this figure, along with a few bones and a clay vessel, in a poorly preserved grave within the cemetery at Ur. It is typical of other figures, generally from graves, found at Ur and the nearby site of Eridu. It is not known what they were made for, but they may represent ancestors, symbols of fertility, votive objects or perhaps simply toys.

    Baked clay figures of humans from 6000-4000 BC have been found widely throughout Mesopotamia. Many depict women, often suckling a child, but there are rare examples of men. As a general rule, figures like this from the south are much slimmer than those from the north.

    The child's head is elongated and has slanted eyes, shaped like a coffee bean. This is also typical for the adult figures (when the head survives) These stylized heads have given the figures their name of 'lizard' figurines.

    Bitumen is often used to suggest hair. Ears are not shown and the nose is only represented by holes for the nostrils. The body of this figure is decorated with bands of black/brown paint around the neck, waist, and nipples. Dots on the right shoulder and stripes on the left may represent tattoo marks. Other similar figures have pieces of clay attached to the shoulders, perhaps representing beads.

    C.L. Woolley, Ur Excavations, vol. IV: The e (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1955)

    J.E. Reade, Mesopotamia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

    D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

    F. Safar, M.A. Mustafa, and S. Lloyd, Eridu (Baghdad, Iraqi Ministry of culture and information, 1981)

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    On display: Room 56: Mesopotamia

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