Banner of Ur

Banner of Ur
Banner of Ur

Mesopotamian art is the reflection of one of the greatest cultures of antiquity, in the fluvial valley formed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers a series of towns arose that have bequeathed us some of the most outstanding works of the ancient world, indispensable pieces to know the past history and the social and cultural organization of those towns. In this sense, the Banner of Ur, the work we are analyzing here, is one of those pieces that helps us understand the life of the well-known ancient Mesopotamian peoples.


In the first half of the 20th century, in the 1920s more specifically, numerous excavations were carried out in the ancient city of Ur, now known as Baghdad, Iraq. It was precisely in one of these excavations when the London archaeologist Leonard Woolley located in the necropolis that he was excavating the tomb PG 779 that belonged to queen Pu - abi, in it the remains of a male corpse were located and next to his shoulder the piece that here we analyze.

The banner is a small trapezoidal-shaped wooden box –it looks like a truncated pyramid- measuring just over eight inches high and fifty wide. The box was made of wood but was decorated with the inlay technique through which shells, coral or even lapis lazuli could be incorporated into the wood with a wide layer of bitumen.

The first investigations intoRegarding the piece, they suggested that it must have been a part of a banner that would be placed on a mast. However, more recent investigations seem to indicate that the work must have been a kind of box to house a musical instrument, perhaps a harp.

Be that as it may, the truth is that the piece gives us great information, we find two well-differentiated faces, both divided into three registers horizontally that are separated by decorative and geometric borders. In what is known as the scene of peace we find a group of servants and farmers who carry offerings to serve them at the banquet that is taking place in the upper register and in which we find a figure larger than it has been identified as the monarch. Those attending the banquet have been represented sitting down talking to each other while the figure of a musician plays the harp to liven up the food.

For its part, the face of war is much less idyllic, in it a military parade is represented in which we find chariots pulled by horses and onagers that run over the enemies, also soldiers with spears, armor and even axes. Again in the upper register we find the figure of the monarch this time heading towards his soldiers

The scenes represented have a strong geometric character and are far from being naturalistic, however, the figures that we find are arranged with great movement despite the fact that all of them have been represented in aprofile.

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