Old Babylonian Bull Head Alabaster Fragment


An alabaster Babylonian fragment, realistically sculpted into the shape of a bull’s head. The piece features a triangular-shaped outline that expresses the stylised anatomical details of a bull. Its facial features are clearly engraved, including two perforated eyes, in which ornamenting inlays of precious stone might have been intended, incised nostrils, incised ears and a lightly grooved mouth. This item has been hollowed, suggesting it might have been used to connect to a once complete container, probably a bull-headed, votive vessel.



Date: Circa 2nd millenium BC
Condition: This object is a fragmentary piece, which might have been a part of a once completed votive vase. Slight surface abrasion consistent with age.


Babylonian stone zoomorphic drinking or ritual vessels might have been inspired from early Assyrian terracotta ritual vases that were once shaped into realistic zoomorphic representations. Such vessels have been recovered across Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia, and they have were known as BIBRU, from the word for ‘bird’ in Akkadian (a Semitic language spoken in ancient Babylonia and Assyria). BIBRU vessels appeared for the first time in Uruk Mesopotamia and might have been produced as ceremonial drinking vessels, dedicated to specific deities. They might have also served as drinking vessels for the social elite and royal family members. BIBRU vessels usually display a prominent spout on the animal’s back and a secondary tubular opening on the animal’s mouth. Images of bull signified a strong religious implication within traditional Mesopotamian cultures, indicating the presence of the god Dumuzid, who personalised the generative power of nature.

Weight 153.7 g
Dimensions W 7.1 x H 9 cm



Reference: For similar concept: The Metropolitan Museum, New York, item 49.134.2

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