Height: 40.200 cm
Width: 36.800 cm (max.)
Room 56: Mesopotamia
Terracotta statue of a woman
Probably Old Babylonian, about 2000-1700
Traces of red paint show that this statue was originally painted. It was probably placed in a temple. Images of women are not generally common, though it has been possible to learn something about the status of women in ancient Mesopotamia from documents dating from 2400 BC until around the time when this statue was made.
Queens often controlled their own estates, had their own administration and played an important role in the economic life of the state. Wives of governors were also active in the textile and other industries. Women could own land, orchards, slaves, oxen and silver. It is clear that women had the same legal rights as men, and that they could go to court to protect them. They could apparently act independently, buying and selling houses, and could act as guarantor for another person.
Further down the social scale, the main occupation of women was weaving. Texts also mention the number of their children, who were probably taken to work, as many of them are suckling babies. Boys were separated when grown up and the girls raised to become weavers like their mothers. Many, but not all, are slaves (as a result of warfare). A great number were possibly connected with a-ru-a, an institution where objects, animals or people were donated to temples.
J.E. Reade, 'Early Mesopotamia', British Museum Magazine: th-17, 6 (1991), pp. 15-18