- Museum number
- Series: The Royal Game of Ur
Game-board; wooden, originally hollow; top covered with 20 inlaid square shell plaques; edges made of small plaques and strips, some sculptured with an eye and some with rosettes; on the back are three lines of triangular shell ornamental inlays set as part of the modern reconstruction.
- Production date
Height: 2.40 centimetres
Length: 30.10 centimetres
Width: 5.70 centimetres (narrow part of b)
Width: 11 centimetres
- 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).
An important point to note, often forgotten, is that this was a hollow box and not a solid board: it was therefore a much more delicate item than the present reconstruction suggests and the interior of the box contaiined the pieces and the dice, just as the silver version did when excavated in another grave. Moreover, there are several other boxed sets for this game found in this Cemetery: the others are in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and on display (viewed 2018). Another version carved entirely of wood was excavated in a grave at Shahr-i Sokhta in eastern Iran, and inlaid versions of a yet different style excavated in the 'Royal Cemetery' at Gonur depe in present-day southern Turkmenistan. The origins of all are thought to lie in the Indus valley.
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).
- On display (G56/dc16)
- Exhibition history
2014-2015 13 Dec-15 Mar, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
2014 23 Apr-01 Aug, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
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.
- Acquisition date
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Excavation/small finds number: U.9000 (excavation number)