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Sumerian jewelry from Ur


#1

Many years ago I took a high school Ancient History class from a
wonderfully gifted teacher who could make the past come alive. His
name was Mr. Babel, I kid you not. To help teach us about ancient
Mesopotamia he brought in a 1952 National Geographic with an artist’s
conception of life in the city of Ur (Sumer) in approximately 3,000
B.C. Some of the paintings portrayed the funeral of Queen Shub-ad
(later translated as Queen Pu-abi, I never could figure out what
those Mesopotamian linguists were up to), which involved driving
several carts full of furniture and jewelry, not to mention dozens of
people, into her tomb --and then walling them up inside. They would
have died of thirst, starvation or suffocation, had not bowls of
poison also been conveniently included with the treasure.

Around 1926 Sir Leonard Woolley excavated much of it, which he sent
to the British Museum where it resides today. The jewelry is
gorgeous – great lunate or moon-shaped earrings of beaten gold, with
huge ear posts that give a modern girl shooting pains just to look
at; head-dresses with three flowers of gold rising up on stalks,
beaded necklaces featuring hammered golden leaves, and on and on. I
finally saw all the stuff when I was a student traveling Europe in
the late 70’s and got to visit the British Museum.

It seems that ancient Egyptian jewelry has attracted much of the
attention in recent years, but has anyone ever seen an article about
reproducing these ancient Sumerian designs? I’ve been studying
jewelry making for several years and have probably gotten enough
experience to take a stab at copying them, but I wonder if anyone
else has also been captivated by the story and the beauty of the
jewelry.


#2

Mona, Check out the publications of the Smithsonian. They published
several articles on jewelry from Mesopotamia. The only picture of
jewelry I have on my wall is Mesopotamian. I adore the
things they made. Best, Will


#3

I wonder if anyone else has also been captivated by the story and the
beauty of the jewelry.

I agree wholeheartedly. Treasures from the Tombs of Ur exhibit was
in Washington, D.C. three years ago. I spent hours there looking at
the gold. I was especially captivated by a tiny, repousse resting
bull in gold about 1.5" x1" x 3/4". I sent postcards from the
exhibit to many of my jewelry friends.

Donna in VA


#4

Mona- I also have a passion for ancient jewelry, be it Sumerian,
Egyptian, Greek or Roman. As far as scholarly info on this kind of
stuff, the best books I have found so far are those by Jack Ogden-
one that I am actually using right now for research is called
Jewellery of the Ancient World- it sounds simple enough, but Ogden is
incredibly thorough. Unfortunately, this book is out of print, but
you might be able to find a copy at a library. He does have some
other works in print, however. As far as technique for reproducing
this jewelry, I don’t know of any comprehensive book- but Jean Stark,
as you probably know, pretty much covers all the technical aspects of
loop in loop chain making, which was the primary chain type for fine
jewelry in all of those afore mentioned cultures. That book, in case
you don’t know it, is called Classical Loop in Loop Chains and their
Derivitives. Jean Stark’s book is practically my bible… I think
she has published some work on granulation also, but you’ll have to
check behind me on that. I hope I’ve been of some help! Good luck in
your search!

Lisa Catron


#5

Thanks, Mona, for your interest in this area. It is indeed
fascinating. I, too, have long wondered why the Egyptian material
(which is also interesting) has received the lion’s share of general
attention.

There are books showing some of that Sumerian jewelry. Penn’s
University Museum recently sent an exhibition of Ur goodies around
the country, and the book with it is entitled Treasures from the
Royal Tombs of Ur (edited by R. Zettler and Lee Horne; 1998). It
gives a good summary and the latest thinking on the "Royal Tombs"
and many close-up photos of the portion of the Ur jewelry, stone
work, harps, statues, headdresses, cylinder seals, etc., that was
allotted to Penn (which was a partner with the British Museum in
these excavations).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City recently had a
wonderful exhibit, “Art of the First Cities,” and the book with it
has the same title. There’s more Sumerian jewelry on pp. 123-132.
The rest of the book is great eye-candy, too.

If you get the catalog from the MMA store, in it you will find
reproductions of some of the Sumerian jewelry for sale.

As for the two different names for the high-born woman found in the
rich tomb in the “Royal” Cemetery, “Shub-Ad” is the Sumerian
reading of the cuneiform signs making up her name; “Pu-Abi” is an
Akkadian reading of the same signs.

Judy Bjorkman


#6

I am delighted that people liked the Sumerian Jewelry at the “First
Cities” Exhibit at the MMA.�I am the Jeweler who designed and
manufactured the silver pieces for that exhibit.�The Met. Museum’s
Holiday catalogue is featuring three of my pieces from that
collection ( a Cylinder Seal Bracelet, Ring and Pendant).�While my
creations are not reproductions of ancient jewelry per se; they are
pieces of contemporary jewelry made using actual Sumerian
antiquties.�I have a great deal of fun designing and creating new
pieces using ancient artifacts. In fact, part of my 18k collection
that I brought on the trunk show ( yea, the one at Bergdorf’s) was
made using antiquities and got very positive responses.

I think it’s wonderful to bring the incredible beauty of our ancient
ancestors back to life in new and creative ways for the modern
person to enjoy.�For those of you with any interest, more of my
pieces, including jewelry I’ve created with my own collection of
mesopotamian artifacts, can be seen at my web cite at
www.DawnHaleDesign.com. I too recomend Jean Stark as well as the
teachers at Jewelry Arts Institute in NYC for ancient techniques
such as granulation, repose, chain-making etc. When I study the
ancients I realize how very little I really do know!


#7

About a year ago the “Treasures form the Royal Tombs of Ur” came to
the Fogg Museum at Harvard. It was magnificent! I was surprised that
it got so little attention. I went to see and study it twice. There
is a very fine catolog of the same name published by the U. of
Pennsylvania Museum, 1998. It does not really have a lot on
technique, but the photography is quite good. And most of the
technique seems to be easily grasped.

I share you love of the work and was so discouraged at what happened
to the museum in Iraq.

www.sumnersilverman.com


#8

Similarly, on the wall of my small shop is a 30 year yellowed sheet
of paper with drawings of Sumarian jewelry. I made the drawings
from photos in a library book. While I don’t copy jewelery, I do
often incorporate elements of design that I find in my many
reference books. I wish I could buy a book with photos of sumarian
jewelry.

Howard Woods
Eagle Idaho


#9

Not sure if this will help, but check out any books associated with
Zahi Hawass. He’s the premier Egyptologist in the world and has the
most exclusive access to all the tombs and mummies in Egypt. I know
one of his books is called “Valley of the Golden Mummies,” published
by Harry N. Abrams. He’s also scheduled to speak at the Met Museum
in NY in the November (I’m going!).


#10
   I share you love of the work and was so discouraged at what
happened to the museum in Iraq. 

I agree. Isn’t it fortunate that from the perspective of time, it
turns out that the looting at the museum was far far less than
originally reported. From what I’ve read, the vast majority of the
collection remains intact and undamaged. I’ve read that there were
indeed a few major and important items stolen which have not yet been
recovered, but it appears, at least from what I’ve read in the news,
that the initial reports of widespread catastrophic
looting of the collections were not true.