Wall plaque with libation scenes


This wall plaque was found in the gipar, the residence of the high priestess of the moon god Nanna at Ur, which was likely occupied by Enheduanna in her day. A high priestess is represented frontally in the lower register. Wearing a long cloak and a circlet resembling Enheduanna’s headdress, she oversees a ritual in which a clean-shaven, nude man pours a libation into a date-palm vase in front of a temple. Two attendants carrying offerings stand behind her. In the upper register, another libation scene takes place inside the temple before a statue of the enthroned deity. The use of frontality to represent the high priestess, an artistic device associated with contemporary depictions of goddesses, accentuates her authority as the overseer of this libation ritual.

Wall plaque with libation scenes
Mesopotamia, Sumerian, Ur (modern Tell el-Muqayyar), gipar
Early Dynastic IIIa period, ca. 2500 BC
The British Museum, London, Excavated 1925/26; BM 118561

© The Trustees of the British Museum


Sidney Babcock: Divided into registers are two libation scenes. In the lower register, a clean-shaven, nude man pours a libation into a vase before a temple. Niches were incorporated into the façade of this architectural structure and gateposts stand on each side of it. Behind the male figure is the high priestess and she is followed by two figures holding offerings—one of them is carrying an animal for sacrifice. The upper register depicts events occurring inside the temple where a libation is poured before the cult statue of a deity who is portrayed with both hands wrapped around the neck of a vessel. Though the nude man who pours the libation is clean-shaven, he has long hair unlike his counterpart below. Attending the ritual in the temple are three priestesses dressed identically. The high priestess in the lower register is the sole figure to be represented frontally, which is significant given that this plaque was excavated from the residence of the moon god’s high priestess. Some of her facial features seem to have worn away, but they would have surely intensified this priestess’ authority and the impact of her image.