This month we have begun examining clay figurines from Ur. Our goal is to confirm museum object associations with field records.
Here are two examples to show the process, challenges, and a little detail on the imagery:
Artifacts of the month
Spotlight on field number U.1527 (museum number B15689) and field number U.18001B? (museum number 33-35-29)
Bearded Male Figurines
In this case, our museum records indicate that B15689 is associated with field number U.1527. The field catalogue card describes that object as:
head and shoulders only,
drab clay: moulded.
Bearded figure in high horned headdress.
Height: M. 0.082
Modern measurements show the height to be around 79mm instead of the maximum 82 reported in the field, but it is within tolerable limits and the imagery of the piece is exactly as described. Furthermore, the ‘P’ on the field card clearly shows this object was sent to Philadelphia in the original division. So this one is easily confirmed and we now know that the artifact was found in the suburb of Ur known as Diqdiqqeh.
This second example has no connection to field number and is more difficult to locate. We can search on the general imagery, but we would have to know the wording Woolley would have used, probably: bearded male with close-fitting hat, carrying a goat or kid. But he was not always consistent in his wording and there are many figurines of bearded men in general, so using only the broadest words will probably generate so many hits as not to be overly useful (or rather to take a great deal of time to examine). Best if we can narrow down the initial search with other information.
We know the modern measurements, about 62mm in height, but Woolley didn’t always record the measurements and his don’t always match ours exactly. We can search within 5mm as one way to narrow down and check the ones that do have measurements first.
We also know that the object was accessioned in 1933. This is clear in the museum number, as the first two digits represent the year. This means that the object is quite likely to have been from the 11th season at Ur, which ended early in 1933. If it isn’t from that year, then it is next most likely to have come from the 10th season, 1931-32.
It is possible that artifacts were remaining un-accessioned from still earlier seasons, so if it isn’t found in those years, the search has to be opened up further, but it’s best to start with the narrowest search possible.
Unfortunately, there are no clear hits for this object, even with the more open searches throughout the seasons. A great many figurines were found in the 11th season and in many cases, Woolley writes on the field card indications that there may be multiple examples of one type; for example, he lists U.17156A but not a B example. It seems he intended to go back and add examples but may have felt the main record of the type was enough, or he simply got too busy to fill in the details of the other examples. Naturally, we can’t confirm that our piece is one of these unrecorded examples, but we can find a very good representation of the type in season 11 — U.18001 — described as:
Bearded offrant with kid.
The field photo shows the exact type, with kid goat’s head at left as we observe it. The best preserved example was the type model, U.18001 being 130mm high, showing the figure to the knee. Ours is only 62mm high, broken at the arms, showing only the upper portion of the kid goat.
Thus, it is possible that Woolley intended this to be another example of the type, but didn’t specifically record it. That can’t truly be proven, but there are no other examples of this type from other seasons that are not already attached to a museum number. The best we can do is suggest that 33-35-29 is a mould-made figurine very much like U.18001, and possibly coming from Diqdiqqeh.