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6.2.3 Headdress

This photograph shows a headdress, with a double string of beads to go around a woman’s head. There are gold pieces shaped like leaves dangling from the double string.

Unknown Sumerian Artist
circa 2600 – 2500 BCE

Unknown Sumerian artist. Headdress, Early Dynastic IIIa, 2600 – 2500 BCE, Sumerian, The Metropolitan Museum of Art #33.35.3,

This photograph is of a headdress. It was found on the forehead of a female attendant in a man’s grave (called the King’s Grave) in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. It was made of gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian. None of these materials is found in Mesopotamia. The lapis lazuli came from modern-day Afghanistan, the carnelian from the Indus River Valley, and the gold from northern Iran (Persia) or Nubia. Find these locations on a map. How far did someone have to travel to bring these materials to Ur? If you were an archaeologist — someone who studies the past through artifacts and other remains — what questions (economic, cultural, political, religious, etc.) would this headdress raise or answer for you?

The exchange networks of Mesopotamia in this early period stretched throughout modern-day Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to the east, along the coasts of the Persian Gulf, and across Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Use a map, preferably one listing trade products, to help students grasp the extent of the networks. Lapis lazuli was found roughly 2,000 miles from Ur, and carnelian was located about 2,500 miles away at the mouth of the Indus River. In the Mesopotamian city of Lagash, there was a colony of merchants from “Meluhha,” which was probably the Indus River.