Terracotta mould of a man on horseback

Old Babylonian, 2000-1600 BC
From Mesopotamia

Terracotta moulds were mass produced in southern Mesopotamia. They may have been intended for private worship or simply home decoration and show various scenes of religious or secular life.

Horses, introduced from Iran became increasingly common in Mesopotamia from the early second millennium BC onwards. Eventually they were used for pulling light chariots. The technology of chariots developed, and changed the face of warfare in the Middle East from Egypt to the Indus valley and beyond.

Although this mould shows a rider, it does not show a cavalryman. All image of riders of this period ride bareback, without stirrups, and straddle the horse towards its rump, not a position from which one can control the animal easily. It was only in the ninth century BC that cavalry horses were introduced, ridden by Assyrians from the forward seat. Thus a new form of warfare, the cavalry charge, was introduced. It is possible that selective breeding played a part in these developments.

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Terracotta mould of a man on horseback

Exterior of mould

  • Modern impression taken from mould

    Modern impression taken from mould


More information


P.R.S. Moorey, 'Pictorial evidence for the history of horse-riding in Iraq before the Kassite Period', Iraq-15, 32 (1970), pp. 36-50

J. Keegan, A history of warfare (London, Hutchinson, 1993)

British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)


Length: 9.840 cm
Width: 7.300 cm

Museum number

ME 22958



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