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.

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More information

Bibliography

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)

Dimensions

Length: 13.650 cm
Height: 9.520 cm

Museum number

ME 132092

WCO2686

Location

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