The [2003] Metropolitan exhibition opens with a limestone statue of a full-bearded “priest king” believed to be from 3300-3000 b.c. Uruk, a city of some 40,000 inhabitants that was home to the legendary epic hero Gilgamesh. Located 150 miles south of present-day Baghdad, Uruk was once filled with lush gardens, man-made canals and sprawling mud-brick temples. At the Met, subsequent galleries present gold and lapis lazuli jewelry and statuary from the royal cemetery at Ur, which was excavated from 1922 to 1934 by British archaeologist Leonard Woolley. (The city-state of Ur emerged as an important center of commerce and Sumerian culture circa 2700 b.c.) The prize piece is the Standard of Ur (below), a trapezoidal box, 18-1/2 inches long by 8 inches high, that depicts battle and banquet scenes in elaborately detailed mosaics composed of shell and lapis lazuli inlay. Because it was found beside the skeleton of a man, Woolley speculated that the box, which dates from the late phase of the Early Dynastic period (circa 2550-2400 b.c.), was carried like a banner, or standard.

To read the full article about the wonderful exhibit on Mesopotamia at the Met, click here.

To visit the Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus online go to this link.

Standard of Ur