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Artifacts of the Royal Cemetery of Ur

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Ram Caught in a Thicket
Ram Caught in a Thicket from Ur

Ram Caught in a Thicket from Ur

Iraq's Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur's Royal Cemetery, Penn Museum

Woolley, like many of his generation of archaeologists (and of course, many modern archaeologists), was well-versed in the literature of ancient religions. The name he gave to this object and its twin discovered in the Great Death Pit near Queen Puabi's tomb is taken from the Old Testament of the Bible (and of course the Torah). In one story in the book of Genesis the patriarch Abraham finds a ram stuck in a thicket and sacrifices it rather than his own son. Whether the legend told in the Old Testament is related somehow to that of the Mesopotamian symbol is anybody's guess.

Each of the statues recovered from Ur's Great Death Pit is a goat standing on its hind legs, framed by gold branches with rosettes. Bodies of the goats are made from a wooden core applied with gold and silver; the goat's fleece were constructed from shell in the lower half and lapis lazuli in the upper. The goats' horns are made of lapis.

Figure Caption: “Ram Caught in a Thicket” (Height: 42.6 cm) of gold, lapis lazuli, copper, shell, red limestone, and bitumen - materials typical of early Mesopotamian composite art. The statuette would have supported a tray and was found in the “Great Death Pit,” a mass burial at the bottom of a pit where the bodies of seventy-three retainers lay. Ur, ca. 2550 BCE.

Sources

Irving, Alexandra and Janet Ambers 2002 Hidden Treasure from the Royal Cemetery at Ur: Technology Sheds New Light on the Ancient Near East. Near Eastern Archaeology 65(3):206-213.

McCaffrey, Kathleen. 2008. The Female Kings of Ur. pp. 173-215 in Gender Through Time in the Ancient Near East, Diane R. Bolger, editor. AltaMira Press, Lanham, Maryland.

Pollock, Susan. 2007. The Royal Cemetery of Ur: Ritual, Tradition, and the Creation of Subjects. pp 89-110 In Representations of Political Power: Case Histories from Times of Change and Dissolving Order in the Ancient Near East, Marlies Heinz and Marian H. Feldman, editors. Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, Indiana.

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