Near Eastern Ur III Fragment of a Terracotta Vase


An extremely rare and finely moulded terracotta fragment, featuring figural representations in low relief. It dates to the Ur III period (circa 2112-2047 BC), as the depicted scene and its iconic Ur III glyphic style suggest. Given its finely shaped, elegant silhouette, this fragment might have been the neck of a once complete, large votive vase that featured a carinated shoulder, a globular body and a wide opening with an everted lip. Within the religious scene, a bold, young male priest is portrayed, standing in a solemn pose, before a seated male figure. He appears to hold in his hand a round object which resembles a container. He appears to wear an ankle-length garment. The young, male worshipper’s facial features are clearly presented in a characteristic Sumerian manner, including an arched eyebrow, an exaggerated almond-shaped eye, and a curved incision suggesting his mouth. Echoing his representation is an enthroned male figure, depicted wearing an iconic, tiered-headdress that symbolises divinity within the Sumerian and Akkadian religious realms. The male deity is presented extending his left arm, seemingly pointing at a horned quadruped that is portrayed in front him. A rectangular-shaped opening is carved out below the vase’s lip, which might have been employed as the handle.

Date: Circa 2112- 2004 BC
Condition: This object is a fragment of a once complete terracotta vase.


The Third Dynasty of Ur, also designated as Ur III, refers to the last Sumerian ruling empire that embraced enormous cultural and economic developments in the history of Mesopotamian arts. The tradition of presenting moulded or engraved pictorial representations, on either terracotta or alabaster vases, can be traced back as early as the Uruk period (circa late 4th century BC). Most of the religious scenes, seen on terracotta vases, are inspired by the existing and highly unified stereotypes that are shown on early and contemporary Mesopotamian cylinder seals.  Increased popularity in funerary art and banquets were richly practised in Ur, given the numerous royal cylinder seals that bear banquet or seated-king related scenes. Religious scenes, where a bold, young, robed worshipper stands before an enthroned king or a male deity, seen on plaques, seals and vases of the Third Dynasty of Ur, might have owed their inspirations to the prevalent royal funeral cult of the Ur III empire. Despite the object’s fragmentary status, the presented scene, moulded on the neck, reveals enormous cultural significance and corresponds to the characteristic funeral-banquet theme that appeared on cylinder seals and votive plaques of the Third Ur Dynasty.

Weight 453.2 g
Dimensions L 18.6 x W 7.5 x H 10.2 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For similar iconography: The Metropolitan Museum, New York, item 59.41.50

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