Fragment of a bowl with a frieze of bulls in relief

Period: Late Uruk–Jemdet Nasr

Date: ca. 3300–2900 B.C.

Geography: Southern Mesopotamia

Medium: Steatite with chlorite

Dimensions: 3 3/4 x 4 5/8 in. (9.5 x 11.7 cm)

Classification: Stone-Vessels

Credit Line: Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1950

Accession Number: 50.218


This fragment of a bowl is decorated with a procession of bulls moving to the right, although only one complete animal survives. Typical of the Late Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods, the body of the animal is carved in low relief while its head, turned to face the viewer, is fully three-dimensional. Such extraordinary sculpture was developed at the end of the fourth millennium B.C., when cities emerged across Mesopotamia. Vessels of this type have been frequently found in palaces or religious structures, which suggests that they had a special function in such settings. After cylinder seals, they are the most important source of pictorial information for the period. The pictures are drawn from the natural realm, often portraying, as here, an ordered world of domesticated animals or, alternatively, the threat of potentially hostile creatures such as the lion.