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Gold Vessel in the Form of an Ostrich Egg

A Special Exhibition Image Gallery by Stan Parchin

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This container was made from a single sheet of hammered gold. Its rim is inlaid in a mosaic pattern of lapis lazuli, red limestone and shell.
Image © University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; Used with permission.

Gold Vessel in the Form of an Ostrich Egg (Mesopotamian, ca. 2550-2400 B.C.). Gold, lapis lazuli, red limestone, shell and bitumen. H. 14.6 cm, Diam. 13 cm.

© University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Sumerian graves were frequently supplied with ostrich eggs, a bird common to the region. This decorated reproduction, identical in size to a real one, could have been used in a funerary ritual. Ostriches were hunted by royalty in antiquity. Initially the birds were identified with underworld creatures, but later came to represent the idea of regeneration.

Since its temporary residency at The St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri, Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur opened on February 22, 2006 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where it will remain on view until August 13. Thereafter, the show will travel to the Middlebury College Museum of Art in Vermont from September 14 to December 11. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's traveling exhibition has been on the road since October 3, 1998. The exhibition shows no sign of loosing steam in terms of its enduring popularity. Called Royal Tombs of Ur: Ancient Treasures from Modern Iraq while in Texas, the display features more than 200 exquisite Mesopotamian works of art and artifacts, including: the Great Lyre; the Ram Caught in a Thicket (actually a rearing goat); the Headdress of the Lady Puabi and her exquisite jewelry; a gold ostrich egg; superb examples of weaponry; and other precious masterpieces from Sumer's Early Dynastic IIIA period (ca. 2600-2500 B.C.). Sometime after 2006, the collection will be reinstalled in the University of Pennsylvania Museum's renovated Ancient Near Eastern Art galleries.

Click here for the full review of the special exhibition.

Special thanks to Erin Blatzer of the Houston Museum of Natural Science for the additional images from the exhibition.

"Royal Tombs of Ur: Ancient Treasures from Modern Iraq" is on view from February 22 through August 13, 2006 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, Houston, TX 77030 (Telephone: 713-639-4629; Website). The exhibition is open Monday and Wednesday to Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Tuesday from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Admission is $9.00 for adults and $8.00 for senior citizens (62 years of age and over), college students with valid identification cards and children ages 3 to 11.

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From your Guide: Stan Parchin, Senior Correspondent for Museums and Special Exhibitions, is a regular contributor to About Art History. Read all of his Special Exhibition and Catalogue Reviews here.
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