The Uruk Trough

From Uruk (Warka), southern Iraq
Late Prehistoric period, about 3300-3000 BC

A cult object in the Temple of Inanna?

This trough was found at Uruk, the largest city so far known in southern Mesopotamia in the late prehistoric period (3300-3000 BC). The carving on the side shows a procession of sheep approaching a reed hut (of a type still found in southern Iraq) and two lambs emerging.

The decoration is only visible if the trough is raised above the level at which it could be conveniently used, suggesting that it was probably a cult object, rather than of practical use. It may have been a cult object in the Temple of Inana (Ishtar), the Sumerian goddess of love and fertility; a bundle of reeds (Inanna's symbol) can be seen projecting from the hut and at the edges of the scene. Later documents make it clear that Inanna was the supreme goddess of Uruk.

Many finely-modelled representations of animals and humans made of clay and stone have been found in what were once enormous buildings in the centre of Uruk, which were probably temples. Cylinder seals of the period also depict sheep, cattle, processions of people and possibly rituals.

Part of the right-hand scene is cast from the original fragment now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin

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The Uruk Trough

The Uruk Trough

  • End of trough

    End of trough


More information


J. Black and A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of -1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

H.W.F. Saggs, Babylonians (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

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

H. Frankfort, The art and architecture of th (London, Pelican, 1970)

P.P. Delougaz, 'Animals emerging from a hut', Journal of Near Eastern Stud-1, 27 (1968), pp. 186-7


Length: 96.520 cm
Width: 35.560 cm
Height: 15.240 cm

Museum number

ME 120000


Purchased with the aid of the National Art Collections Fund


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