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Tell al-‘Ubaid Copper Lintel

Tell al-'Ubaid Copper Lintel

Tell al-‘Ubaid Copper Lintel

The “Tell al-‘Ubaid Lintel” is a large copper panel found in 1919, at the ancient Sumerian city of Tell al-‘Ubaid in southern Iraq. This frieze is one of the most massive metal sculptures to survive from ancient Mesopotamia.

The central figure shows the lion-headed eagle, called “Imdugud,” which is the symbol of the god Ningirsu, an ancient Mesopotamian god. Flanking either side of the god are two stags.

The relief has also been called the “Imdugud Relief.” It was beaten out of a substantial piece of copper and stands apart from the background.

For an object of this size to survive is unusual as most metal artifacts were melted down for their bullion value in antiquity.

The sculpture was discovered at the base of a temple foundation made from mud and brick at the Sumerian site of Tell al-‘Ubaid, close to the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq.

Archaeologists have determined from the inscriptions that the temple was dedicated to the goddess Ninhursag.

Based on where it was found initially, the copper panel was assumed to have been located above the temple door, in full view of the congregation.

This impressive metal relief was found in an abysmal state and had to be slowly restored by conservators.

Tell al-‘Ubaid

Tell al-‘Ubaid is a low, relatively small settlement mound, west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq. The majority of the remains are from the Chalcolithic Ubaid period. I

n the Chalcolithic period, copper dominated metalwork technology. It was the period before it was discovered that adding tin to copper formed bronze a harder and stronger metal.  

Tell al-‘Ubaid had an Early Dynastic temple and cemetery at the highest point.

The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name “Ubaid” derives from “Tell al-‘Ubaid” because it is where the earliest and most extensive excavation of the Ubaid period material was found.

The lower level of the site featured copious amounts of Ubaid pottery and associated kilns. The site also yielded a cemetery and some finds from the Jemdet Nasr period. The temple of Ninhursag at the summit was on a cleared oval.

Imdugud

Imdugud (also known as Anzû) was a lesser divinity in several Mesopotamian religions. Imdugud was sometimes depicted as a massive lion-headed eagle as in this lintel

Ninĝirsu

Ninĝirsu was an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with farming, healing, hunting, law, and war who was first worshipped in early Sumer.

In the earliest records, he is a god of agriculture and healing, who releases humans from sickness and the power of demons.

In later times, as Mesopotamia grew more militarized, he became a warrior deity, though he retained many of his earlier agricultural attributes. He was regarded as the son of the chief god Enlil.

Ninĝirsu was honored by King Gudea of Lagash (ruled 2144–2124 BC), who rebuilt Ninĝirsu’s temple in Lagash.

Tell al-‘Ubaid Copper Lintel (Imdugud Relief)

  • Title:              Tell al-‘Ubaid Copper Lintel
  • Also known:  Imdugud Relief
  • Date:              2600-2400 BC
  • Findspot: The Sumerian city of Tell al-‘Ubaid in southern Iraq, 1919
  • Materials:       copper alloy, lead, and bitumen
  • Culture:          Sumerian
  • Dimensions:   L: 2.59 m: H: 1.07 m
  • Museum:       The British Museum

Mesopotamia: The Ubaid Period (5500–4000 B.C.)

Tour the Middle East Collection at the British Museum

The Ubaid Skeleton

Tour of Mesopotamian Art

Introduction to the Ancient World

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“The palace is a slippery place that catches those who do not know it.”
– Sumerian Proverbs

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Photo Credit: 1) Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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