– 400 C.E.
Ancient Cultures

The Standard of Ur

The Standard of Ur, 2600-2400 B.C.E., shell, red limestone, lapis lazuli, and bitumen (original wood no longer exists), 21.59 x 49.53 x 12 cm (British Museum, London)

This extraordinary object, of unknown purpose, was found by Charles Leonard Woolley in a large tomb in the royal cemetery at Ur. He wrote:

"In the farther chamber was a most remarkable thing, a plaque, originally of wood, twenty three inches long and seven and a half inches wide, covered on both sides with a mosaic in shell, red stone, and lapis; the wood had decayed, so that we have as yet little idea of what the scene is, but there are rows of human and animal figures, and when the plaque is cleaned and restored it should prove one of the best objects found in the cemetery."

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Dana Law wrote on Monday, June 04, 2012

Thank you for this fascinating description of this piece. As you said it is very old but mirrors modern organzination of power and war.I deeply appreciate your online education into art and history.Dana Law San Diego

Artemis Tziolis wrote on Friday, July 13, 2012

I think it's fascinating not only to see the artwork of the panel, but what it is made of as well, and as was mentioned in the video by Dr. Steven Zucker, the lapis azuli comes from modern-day Afghanistan, the red limestone from India, and the shells from the gulf of Iraq. It's amazing how developed long-distance trade was, even over 3,000 years ago, and the understanding of rarity of stones and gems, or wood, and all that. I don't think modern-day society gives these guys enough credit!

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