Ancient Mesopotamian Marble Cosmetic Container


A truly exquisite and rare Mesopotamian cream-coloured marble cosmetic jar, finely carved  in the shape of an ox. The animal is depicted standing, with a globular pot resting on its back, a vestigial spout between its horns and a lug handle to the back. The spout isn’t connected to the small pot, hence only acting as a decorative element. The animal’s features are naturalistically rendered. This little quaint jar would have served as the container for precious unguents, lotions or cosmetics. The item comes with an original note from late Professor W. G. Lambert, Professor of Assyriology.

Date: Circa 3000-2500 BC
Condition: Extremely fine, rare item. Comes with original note from late Professor W. G. Lambert.

In stock

SKU: CS-275 Category: Tag:

Cosmetics products, such as eyeliner, lotions and unguents were widely used in the Mesopotamian area during ancient times. Most likely, given the small size of this vessel, it was probably employed to store kohl, before it was applied to the body with a glass rod or reed. However, the vessel might have also been placed in temples, shrines or graves as a votive offering. The religious implication of the piece is supported by the fine material the vessel has been carved from: marble and alabaster containers were usually reserved to the elite class or produced as religious offerings dedicated to specific deities, worshipped by the Akkadians and Sumerians. The custom of dedicating cosmetic containers to deities might have driven from the god Enlil’s praise for the goddess Inanna’s beautifully painted eyes. The possible connection with Innana might also be an explanation for the decoration seen on the vessel. Bull’s iconographies were employed as decorative motifs in ancient Mesopotamian art, as a testimony of the great benevolence the animal held in Mesopotamian society and culture. Bovines were extremely important for everyday life, especially for farming and harvesting, but held also a primary role in Mesopotamian religion and mythology: in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the goddess Innana is seen sending the Bull of Heaven to attack the hero Gilgamesh.

Weight 34.86 g
Dimensions L 4.3 x H 3.7 cm



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