Standard of Ur – Detail

standard of Ur slave detail

Standard of Ur, 2500 BC, mixed media, British Museum, London.

This object was found in one of the largest graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. Ur was founded around 4000 BCE in Sumer. By the time this standard was made, Ur had become one of the most prosperous city-states in the region.

This is a hollow wooden box covered in a mosaic of different materials that indicate an extensive trading network. The purpose of the box is unknown. It could be the sounding box of a lyre or perhaps it may have been carried on a pole as a standard.

The two broad sides show two opposing aspects of life in early Sumer: war and peace. On the first side, three registers show chariots charging over fallen enemies, spearmen in helmets seizing the enemy and taking them into slavery. The opposite side illustrates all the benefits of peace. The ruler and elites enjoy a banquet and the people have plentiful animals and supplies.