Female Head

  • Mesopotamia, Early Dynastic III
  • ca. 2500 B.C.
  • Alabaster, lapis lazuli
  • H-7.4 W-6.7
Catalogue Entry

This image depicts a female face rendered in relief on a lapis lazuli panel. Her forelocks, showing under the band around the bottom of her crown, are represented as a series of concentric semicircles and ovals, and at the left and right edges of the panel is relief work depicting further locks of hair hanging down both sides of her face. Her eyebrows join in the middle of her forehead and the bridge of her nose is prominent. Comparing this female head with the one at cat. no. 004, we see that the latter is made mainly of alabaster and is more three-dimensional?almost sculpture in the round?but nonetheless it has a lot in common with the former, including a line of concentric semicircles to indicate strands of hair peeking out from under the headwear, longer locks of hair hanging to both sides of the face, inlaid eyebrows of lapis lazuli that meet between the eyes, and a prominent nose. These facial features are very close in form to that of a goddess image sculpted on a Sumerian Early Dynastic-period stone vessel fragment in the collection of the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East; part of the Pergamon Museum) in Berlin, as is the rendering of the curling tips of the longer locks of hair in cat. no. 004. The goddess depicted on the stone vessel fragment is thought to be Nisaba, goddess of grain, and all three examples depict female faces with gentle smiles befitting such a goddess of fertility and abundance. The people of ancient Mesopotamia dedicated to their temples not only sculptures but also such items as vessels and decorative wall panels bearing depictions of various scenes. In some such scenes the worshipper who dedicated the item is depicted along with images of divine beings, and cat. nos. 004 and 005 may have been part of temple-dedicated works of that kind.