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Terracotta head of a ewe

 

Length: 13.650 cm
Height: 9.520 cm

ME 132092

Room 56: Mesopotamia

    Terracotta head of a ewe

    Probably from Uruk, southern Iraq
    Late Prehistoric period, about 3300-3000 BC

    Probably from the decoration of a temple

    Sheep played an important role in the ancient Sumerian economy. Documents show that woollen textiles were sometimes produced in large factories, employing hundreds of women, and probably exported throughout the region. Images on cylinder seals from this period appear to show lines of weavers, with their hair in pig tails.

    Although it is not clear exactly where this baked clay head came from, other very similar examples made of stone and terracotta have been excavated from the city of Uruk. Indeed, it seems that images of sheep were especially common there at this time. The extraordinary modelling of this piece is characteristic of fine objects of this period. Scenes of sheep on stone sculpture (for example, the 'Uruk Trough' in The British Museum) and cylinder seals at this time show a close relationship with the symbol of the goddess Inana (Ishtar), a fertility deity.

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

    M. Roaf, Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia (New York, 1990)

    J. Rawson, Animals in art (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)