Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Circular greenish grey chlorite box carved on the outside with what appear to be mythological scenes. These include a central female figure, repeated twice, with long plaited hair and wearing a skirt decorated with incised cross-hatching, one clutching a pair of serpents with dragon-heads, gaping mouths and spotted bodies, and the other grasping the tails of what may be other serpents. Additional motifs include a scorpion; an antithetical pair of lions with their heads turned backwards to face one another; an antithetical pair of humped bulls standing facing left and right; and an up-ended bull being attacked by a lion and a vulture or similar large bird of prey. The top of the box has been lightly reworked and modified in antiquity, hence the irregular unfinished rim and truncation of the uppermost elements of the design composition. The top of this modified rim is carefully smoothed.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 2600BC-2400BC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 10.9 centimetres
    • Diameter: 17.8 centimetres (rim, exterior)
    • Diameter: 17 centimetres (rim, interior)
    • Volume: 2100 millilitres
  • Curator's comments

    The present rim of this vessel is not the original one but is cut down and is approximately 1 cm lower than the original which would have been recessed for a lid seating with the top of the narrative scene framed by a horizontal raised line. A fragmentary Jiroft-style relief-carved circular box excavated at Ur (BM 116455) gives the best idea of this original appearance. Moreover, a second chlorite box, also excavated at Ur but without relief-carving, not only has this seating but also has the lid preserved (BM 121696) and a variety of square and rectangular compartmented stone boxes were excavated in the cemetery at Shahdad (not in the BM). The reworking of the rim may have followed loss or breakage of the original lid, thus the rim was modified to remove the lid seating and transform the object from a box to a bowl.

    The surfaces of the vessel appear relatively worn, suggesting that this object may have been curated for a considerable period of time in antiquity. Although the type of chlorite is different, the high polish on BM 116455 probably gives a better impression of its original intended appearance.

    The central female figure wearing a buffalo-horned headdress on the present box is interpreted as a mother-goddess by A. Hori (2001/02, "Buffalo-crowned deity on a steatite bowl from Kerman, Iran", 'Bulletin of the Ancient Orient Museum' 22, 1-10). Seton Lloyd (1978a p. 118) regards it as an import from Baluchistan, but Frankfort (1954a p. 19) disagrees.


  • Bibliography

    • Verdi R 2003a cat. 52, p. 123 bibliographic details
    • Aruz & Wallenfels 2003a no. 227, pp. 330-32 bibliographic details
    • Lloyd S 1978a p. 118, fig. 71 bibliographic details
    • Maxwell-Hyslop R 1988a p. 132 bibliographic details
    • Frankfort H 1954a p. 19, fig. 9, pl. 11b bibliographic details
    • Porada E 1965a p. 36, fig. 12 bibliographic details
    • Frankfort H 1932a p.12 bibliographic details
    • Hori, A 2001/2a p.3 (roll-out drawing and photograph) bibliographic details
    • Huxley F 1979a p.82 bibliographic details
    • Strommenger E & Hirmer M 1962a pls 38-39 bibliographic details
    • Smith S 1937a pp. 117-119 and pls. XXXI-XXXIII bibliographic details
    • Barnett & Wiseman 1969a pp. 16-17 bibliographic details
    • Barnett & Wiseman 1960a pp.18-19, no. 6 bibliographic details
    • Collon 1998b pp.36-37 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G56/dc5

  • Exhibition history


    2003-2004 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, 'Saved!100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund', no.52
    2003 5 May-17 Aug, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Art of the First Cities'

  • Condition

    Partially restored from numerous sherds

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Collection deposited September (?) 1936 by one Mme. Dumont of Foyer Suisse, 12 Upper Bedford Place on card of Mme Luiz de Sousa Barbosa; acquisition reported to Trustees 1/12/36. This particular object was previously seen in fragments in Baghdad by Rostovtzeff; when offered to the BM it triggered correspondence with the Yale Babylonian Collection as to its then-unusual style (CORRES 1935, q.v. Stephens).

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • 1018 (Art Fund Review no.)
COMPASS Title: Stone bowl


COMPASS Title: Stone bowl

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: WCO24664

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help