Although pottery statuettes are fairly common those in stone are very scarce and seldom found. When found they are often in hordes from temple sites dating over a considerable period. They were supposed to remain in the sacred presence of the temple cult statue to remind the god (or goddess) to answer the donor’s request. As they were too sacred to throw out, when they multiplied too much or were outdated they were often built into the floor or walls of temple buildings. Some of the smaller statues were for placement in home altars of the wealthy, but those are usually not well carved or were of pottery.
This statue is in reddish veined gypsum with a dedication inscription in a panel on the back and a donator’s name lightly engraved on the upper right arm. It portrays a deified king with single horned head dress carrying a libation cup in his right hand. The back of the hair shows a row of drilled holes depicting the end of the curls, and this is often a mark of being from Mari, that most distant of Sumerian cities on the upper Euphrates. As this statue is stylistically of a family with the others, and drilled work was also very common in the Jemdat Nasr period, it would seem to be of southern origin. Static, restrained stone work style typical of Ur III and the Late Dynastic Period into the Old Babylonian. Early Old Babylonian Period, c. 1800 B.C., 152 mm tall. In a private collection.
A gypsum statue of a standing Sumerian goddess or worshipper, with elaborate wrapped hair. There is an inscribed rectangular panel on the back. As with G-Sum 1 this is almost certainly a votive statue to be placed in the presence of the temple deity statue. The dress worn off the right shoulder is typical of early Sumerian clothing, as is the layered effect which may show derivation from pieced animal skins. late Sumerian Dynastic Period or early Old Babylonian, c. 2100-1800 B.C. 176 mm tall.
A Sumerian goddess, likely Inanna, seated on a throne-like chair. There is a blank rectangular panel on the back that was intended to receive an inscription. Several of the carvings and cylinder seals from the Golf Collection have inscriptions to Inanna and may have come from a temple site of Innana. Inanna was the city goddess of Uruk, and her father Nanna was the city god of Ur, so we would expect to find her well represented in southern Sumeria. A well known type of statue. Gypsum, with chipping to face and base, with soil and salt encrustation to lower areas. Sumerian Dynastic Period, 2300-2000 B.C. 87 mm tall x 61 mm x 46 mm.
A Gypsum statuette of a priestess or goddess from the Sumerian Dynastic period, most likely Inanna. Her skirt bears a 28 register inscription in linear cuneiform, much worn on some panels, that may date and explain this entire group of statues. She holds a sacred vessel from which the life-giving waters flow in two streams. Several gods and goddesses are shown thus with running water, including Inanna, and it speaks of their life-giving powers as only water brings life to the barren earth of Sumeria. The two streams of water are thought to stand for the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. This is the earliest of the group of statues and dates to c. 2600-2300 B.C. 150 mm tall.
Her arms are stylistically similar to those of the god in G-Sum 1 which helps to connect the statues to the same site. In this statue the modeling looser and has more personality. The breasts are well shaped and detailed, the hair and water both flow with some life, and her eyes seem to look at you. The crooked mouth is distinctive and must be of some particular significance, perhaps the fierce reputation of Inanna when angry. Her hair is of a very early type and is close to that on the famous Khafaje statue of a bare breasted worhipper of the Jemdat Nasr period, as is much else of this statue. The biggest difference is the large nose of the Khafaje statue, but all of the Golf statues have broken noses, either from the accidents of age or the well known Muslim habit of breaking of noses on statues to fight idol worship. Even the Egyptian Sphinx was relatively intact until early Muslims heavily damaged the face in their religious zeal.
To see the inscription on her skirt see the details page.
A limestone carving of the torso of a Sumerian with hands crossed over the chest in supplication and worship. The seeming bald head could indicate a priest. These little statues were intended to be placed before the temple statue of the god or goddess to make constant prayers for the worshipper’s well being.
The simple, primitive oratory attitude of the figure and the large, full head and prominent eyes shows a close relationship to the Tell Brak figures, although it is likely more cultural borrowing and similar, primitive art styles that connect them, as this torso seems early Sumerian in style.
Uruk or Jemdat Nasr Period, 3500-2900 B.C. 72 mm x 51 mm x 22 mm. In a private collection.
A steatite votive boat with an very worn, boxed inscription on the side. This is a wide river boat like the later Mesopotamian freight boats and quite unlike the more delicate, elongated marsh boats of the lower delta. Similar boats appear on many Sumerian and Babylonian sculptured panels. These boat carvings both represent the real boats of daily commerce and fishing in this watery land, and the divine boats of the Gods. Note should be made of the construction with wide planks in caraval fashion. That implies that this was modeled on a large and sturdy sea-going vessel.
This votive boat with its solid structure may well be related to the Dilmun seal of the Akkadian Period scribe-merchant shown on the Sumerian seals page. Overseas trade would have been in big boats like this, and Sumerian mythology frequently mentions the “Dilmun” and “Magan” boats, both coming and going and being lost at sea.
In going to the land of the Gods to seek eternal life, the semi-divine hero Gilgamish needed to travel in the boat of Urshanabi, boatman of the Gods. To touch the surrounding waters was death. This also likely relates to Chaeron and his boat for crossing the river Styx to the Land of the Dead in ancient Greece, and to the funerary boats of ancient Egypt. Boats were magical vehicles for entering the spiritual world around the world and especially in Sumeria, the land of rivers and marshes. Sumerian Dynastic Period, 2500-1900 B.C. 112 mm long x 41 mm wide x 36 mm tall. In a private collection.
A small votive cup in cream steatite mottled with black and brown such as were used in temples to pour librations and offerings to the gods. The temple statues of the gods were “fed” several times a day to gain their pleasure, and temples had both drainage systems to remove the ‘used’ libations and ovens to cook offerings. (This is the type of offering cup being held by the statue No. G-Sum 1 above.) The richly mottled and veined steatite used in this cup is paralleled in Dynastic seals, but starting with the Akkadian period seals are mostly plain, black steatite or haematite. Only in Syria do we find the continued use of richly colored stone down to the Classical Period. A modern parallel is the replacement of the elaborately colored men’s clothing of the Renaissance by the 18th century with dull monotonous black as is still seen in modern men’s suits. In both cases this likely reflects a social change from new, proud nobility to a rigid bureaucratic system. Sumerian Dynastic Period 2500-1900 B.C. 59 mm wide x 28 mm tall.
Two stone bead necklaces: 8A with yellowish tube beads and 8b with cylinder seal-like beads and a larger center ornament. Location unknown.
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