Standard of Ur

Standard of Ur


The Standard of Ur is an artwork belonging to the Sumerians, to the XXVI century before Christ. It has two faces where are represented a military scene and a parade of animals. It is made with an artisanal technique called inlay work, applied to the coating of flooring, walls, furniture, sculptures and other artistic objects. So it is formed by inlaid mosaic panels. Cut pieces of different materials are used to be fitted in a support till create the decorative design. It is a work of embedding. When stones of varying sizes and colors are combined it is called mosaic.
It is a wooden trapezoidal box. The section has the shape of a truncated pyramid. In each of the panels was a mosaic of inlaid shells, red limestone and lapis lazuli subject to a wooden base with bitumen. Its original function is uncertain, but there are theories like it could be displayed at the end of a pole, like a banner, or could be the box of a musical instrument or part of a furniture.


The Sumerians belong to the Mesopotamian civilization. In the Mesopotamian region around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, along with the Egyptian civilization, this civilization developed. Due to the constant wars, it was unable to have a constant political unity. It is the Sumerian-Akkadian civilization, developed between 4000 and 1900 before Christ. After is the Assyrian-Babylonian civilization, which sits in the mountainous northern regions, between the XVI to the VI centuries before Christ. From the VI century, subdued and dominated by the Persians, ceases to exist as an independent civilization and lives within the Persian culture. The artistic stages can be summarized in Sumerian stage, Akkadian stage, Neo-Sumerian or Babylonian stage, Assyrian stage and Persian stage.
The painting was used as decoration and subordinate to architecture and sculpture. Its main use is to enhance the effects of the bas-reliefs.


            As already mentioned before, it has two sides or panels. In the picture above there are both sides. The top panel represents the War Panel, which depicts a military victory. War chariots with four wheels rolling enemies, soldiers, prisoners and infants are shown. The lower panel represents the Peace Panel, depicting a parade of animals and tributes for a banquet. All characters are represented partially in profile (face and legs) and partially in front (shoulders and eyes). Their place in society is evidenced by the size, clothing and position.


In conclusion, the Standard of Ur is one of the most important Sumerian artworks, within a scope that could be considered painting, decorative art, or mosaic. Even without knowing the exact function of this artwork, it is clear that it was something important in its time, or at least that's what it seems.
This piece can be visited at the British Museum in London, England.

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