A beautifully illustrated short introduction tells the story of discovery and significance of this splendid object.
Of all the objects found in the royal tombs of Ur, the Standard is the most informative yet also the most enigmatic.
The Standard was given its name because it lay in a tomb near the shoulder of a man as if it had been carried like a battle standard. However, its real function and purpose within the tomb is still unknown. It was originally hollow, like a box, and is decorated on four sides with mosaic images created with inlays of shell, lapis lazuli and red limestone that were set into bitumen on a wooden frame. The two main, rectangular sides sometimes referred to as ‘war’ and ‘peace’, show scenes of a battle and of a banquet. Both of these themes, commonly depicted in Mesopotamian art, are shown on the Standard using a narrative technique that was to be used in Mesopotamia for almost two thousand years and can still be appreciated today.
Viewed as a remarkable work of ancient art the Standard testifies to sophisticated Sumerian craftsmanship and the wide trade networks and wealth of the city of Ur. More importantly for us today, it is also a realistic and lively representation of aspects of the life and concerns of people who lived in one of the world’s great ancient civilisations during the third millennium BC.