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The Royal Game of Ur

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (series)

    • The Royal Game of Ur
  • Description

    Game-board; wooden; the face is of 20 variously inlaid square shell plaques; edges made of small plaques and strips, some sculptured with an eye and some possibly with rosettes; on the back are three lines of shell triangular ornamental inlays.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 2600BC-2400BC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 2.4 centimetres
    • Width: 11 centimetres
    • Length: 30.1 centimetres
    • Width: 5.7 centimetres (narrow part of b)
  • Curator's comments

    Circumstances of discovery and consolidation in the field described by Woolley (and quoted by Grunfeld) as follows: "The board lay face upwards in the soil. With the decay of the wood the whole of the encrustation of the upper surface had sunk down into the void so left, while the strip-work along the sides remained sticking up above it; this collapse had resulted in the dislocation of much of the fine mosaic border, and the regularity of the surface was disturbed, the shell squares often lying at an angle and the lapis strips overlapping them; further, the end of the larger section had been broken and the three last plaques (all except the corner of that on the left, which was still attached) and the right-hand plaque of the next row lay separated from each other and half an inch or more away from the main board, and the border and edging here had been scattered. It was this broken end that we found first and probably some pieces of the strip edging were overlooked by us; when the presence of the object was recognized we worked along it a square or so at a time, pouring hot wax over it as we went, and finally the whole was secured with waxed cloth and lifted. It has not been taken to pieces and remade. The inside was cleaned and covered with waxed muslin and the cloth and wax removed from the face and then it was placed face downwards on a sheet of glass and by applying heat we were able to push the component parts down into their places; the three loose plaques were replaced in the order in which they were found, but nothing was done to restore the missing part of the border and edging. The red and blue spots inlaid in the shell plaques and petals of the flowers were loose in their sockets when found, but were fixed by the wax poured over them and very few of them have been disturbed and replaced [n. A few floated up in the liquid wax but could be at once pushed down into their holes]". The object was reconstructed by the WAA conservator I G Tremayne following sagging through a build-up of intense heat in the gallery (Report to Trustees 5 July 1961).Various replica versions, more or less based on the original, have been made and marketed, for instance by BMCompany and Ludibundus (Christmas 1980 sale catalogue).


  • Bibliography

    • Lhôte J-M 2005a bibliographic details
    • Finkel I L 1995a bibliographic details
    • Grunfeld F V 1968a bibliographic details
    • Finkel I L 2007a bibliographic details
    • Becker A 2007a bibliographic details
    • Aruz & Wallenfels 2003a no. 53a, p. 101. bibliographic details
    • Woolley et al 1934a p.276, pl. 95b bibliographic details
    • Du Ry C J 1969a p.57 bibliographic details
    • Marseille 1991 pp.154-55 bibliographic details
    • Barnett & Wiseman 1960a pp.24-25, no. 9 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G56/dc16

  • Exhibition history


    2014-2015, A History of the World (AHOW) loan tour
    2012-2013 28 Nov-18 Mar, Paris, Musee National du Moyen Age, 'Jeux de la Babylone antique a l'occident medieval'
    2006 Jul, BM, Gallery 3 'The Royal Game of Ur'
    2003 5 May-17 Aug, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Art of the First Cities'
    1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.14
    1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.14
    1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.14

    G56/Early Mesopotamia gallery/case 16.

    Babylonian Room

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Objects allotted to the British Museum from the Ur excavations, season 1926-1927.

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • U.9000 (excavation number)
COMPASS Title: The Royal Game of Ur


COMPASS Title: The Royal Game of Ur

Image description



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Object reference number: WCO24357

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