Puabi’s Diadem and Headdress

Queen Puabli's headdress, Penn Museum Objects B16693 (comb), B16992 (hair rings), B17709 (wreath), B17710 (wreath), B17711 (wreath), B17711a (hair ribbon), B17712 (earrings).
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Queen Puabli's headdress, Penn Museum Objects B16693 (comb), B16992 (hair rings), B17709 (wreath), B17710 (wreath), B17711 (wreath), B17711a (hair ribbon), B17712 (earrings).
Queen Puabli’s headdress

A reinvestigation of Woolley’s “diadem” suggests a collection of jewelry pieces, rather than a single piece. This modern reconstruction reflects this new interpretation—more than 25 pieces of jewelry—the apparent remains from a long-gone jewelry box.

When Woolley discovered thousands of pieces of jewelry next to the head of Queen Puabi, he assumed they formed a single piece that had been held together by a wide strip of leather now decayed. From the pieces, he recreated one piece of jewelry that he identified as a diadem, a type of crown or headdress. Upon preparation for exhibition, the curators observed that instead of one unified piece of jewelry, the components of the “diadem” were, in fact, as many as five individual pieces that together made a jewelry ensemble. This was especially obvious from the different types of bale (the hollow form through which string passes). The bulls, goats, and plants of various kinds were originally suspended from strings of lapis beads that made up necklaces and bracelets for the queen.

Further work has been done on the elements of the “diadem” by Penn Museum paleoethnobotanist Naomi F. Miller. She has identified the plants as the female and male branches of the date palm—a staple of southern Mesopotamian diet whose appearance in Sumerian art carried the meaning of fertility and abundance. Miller also studied the pendants with three leaves and three fruits, which Woolley described as “three pomegranates with their leaves.” Miller observed that the fruits more closely resemble apples than pomegranates. Many species of apple grow fruit in close clusters as seen in the pendant. It therefore seems plausible that the three fruit pendants represent apples, remains of which were found in the Royal Cemetery.

View images of Penn Museum staff assembling Queen Puabi’s elaborate headdress in preparation for the opening of Iraq’s Ancient Past:

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