- Museum number
Drinking-straw; consists of 35 alternating gold foil and lapis lazuli cylindrical beads set in bitumen on a hollow copper tube made by rolling a piece of metal spiral, with a silver end originally set at right angles to the tube.
- Production date
Diameter: 0.37 inches
Length: 37.50 inches (long limb)
Length: 7 inches (short limb)
- Curator's comments
- Found in the death pit of PG 800, the tomb of queen Pu-Abi.
When excavated, this object was described as a possible sceptre or staff (?) and described in the excavation notes as follows:
'Sceptre? made of cylindrical length of lapis + gold strung on silver wire, or slender rod = it lay along the end of the box + one end was bent down into the large silver pot U = also half in this was a L-shaped piece of silver tube which is probably the head of the sceptre. Length of stem 093, diam 001, L of silver head 019, L of arm of head 014'.
The tomb field notes record it as '31 - 5) staff (?) of gold and lapis lying along end of coffin, one part of it inside a bowl, 6) silver object'.
The excavation archive record for U.10462 explicitly states that 'resting against the rim + projecting above it a silver drinking tube', hence the annotation of the entry for U.10450 . The excavation report describes the find as follows: 'Against the north-east wall ... was a silver pot of Type 10, U.10462, inside which was another silver bowl in very bad condition (U. 10461) and also the mouthpiece of (31), a long drinking-tube of silver decorated with rings of lapis-lazuli and gold and having this silver mouthpiece which was bent at right angles so as to fit more easily into the pot, U.10450' (Woolley 1934: 81 = UE II, 'The Royal Cemetery').
The plan (vol. II, pl. 36) makes it clear that the tube was found in a curving position, not rigid and straight as reconstructed.
Another straw, of gold foil on a reed stem, was found inserted into another silver pot (U.10855) in this tomb, and was frmerly exhibited with a right-angled bend at one end based on comparison with that described above.
The object was conserved and mounted in its current form in 1970 (R.L. file 2247, dated 9th March), when it was found that there was a narrow hole along the centre of the corroded copper core on which the alternating gold and lapis lazuli beads were threaded. The present silver end is modern and reconstructed on the same alignment as the "straw" whereas it should be bent and mounted at 90 degrees as found.
As part of this conservation work, emission spectroscopy of the silver proved it to be relatively pure but with a small amount of copper and other trace elements. The copper tube has completely corroded so that the bitumen and lapis lazuli split. They were mechanically cleaned and lacquered, repaired with Durofix and in some cases the gold-covered bitumen remodelled back into a circular shape by gently softening with a solvent. The current mount involves threading a fine steel wire along the centre. The last gold bead had been badly damaged, so the foil was mounted on a perspex former which hides the grip holding the wire at one end. The replica silver end slides off the modern perspex mount horizontally to reveal the method of fixing the wire. It is possible to remove the beads from the wire. They are mounted in the same position as received in the lab. This work was carried out by Ian McIntyre.
It has been stated that remains of reed were found within the tube but the basis for this is unclear and may be a visual mis-identification of the corroded copper tube still visible in places.
Long flexible tubes were used for drinking a liquid, probably beer which had unwanted scum and fermentation products floating on top. This re-interpretation has been followed in subsequent gallery and exhibition labels, publications and presentations.
- On display (G56/dc12)
- Exhibition history
2016-2017 2 Nov-23 Jan, Lens, Musee du Louvre-Lens, History Begins in Mesopotamia
BM, Early Mesopotamia, case 6
- Acquisition date
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Excavation/small finds number: U.10450