Tuesday, September 13, 2011

12. Standard of Ur (Iraq, 2600-2400 BC)

Nearby, in the Mesopotamian world of the Tigris/Euphrates valley, grew similar structures; and what’s cool about this standard, which tells much the same story as yesterday’s sandal-label (“Look how big and powerful and central our great king is”), is it’s our first object made of many different components--and they come from all over the place. I believe the Sumerian/Mesopotamian city-states predate the Egyptian; it may be that MacGregor chose this particular piece, which isn’t from the beginning of Ur (although Den’s sandal label was at the beginning of Egypt) to illustrate the elaborate trade network they must have had to create it. (He'll be obsessed with trade for the rest of human history.) The different colors of stone each come from different regions: from Afghanistan, from the Gulf, and bitumen (petroleum) from Iraq to hold it all together. The other fun thing about this object is that it's an early cartoon; the animals pulling the chariot, in the lowest bar, start running as you follow them from left to right.

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