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The Uruk Vase

Updated: Jun 19, 2021


Also known as the Warka Vase, the Uruk Vase was discovered in a deposit of cult objects in the temple complex of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Like the Narmer palette from Egypt, it is one of the earliest surviving works of narrative relief sculpture. The vase has four tiers of carving.

The bottom register depicts the vegetation in the Tigris and Euphrates delta. Above this vegetation is a procession of animals, such as oxen and sheep. The procession continues in the second register with nude males carrying bowls and jars of sacrificial elements.

The top tier is a full scene, rather than a continuous pattern that ends at the temple area. Inanna, one of the chief goddesses of Mesopotamia and later known as Ishtar in the Akkadian pantheon, stands by two bundles of reeds behind her. She is offered a bowl of fruit and grain by a nude figure. A subject in ceremonial clothing – presumably a chieftain or priest – stands nearby with the procession approaching him from behind.


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