Cup Supported by Heroes and Animals

Iraq: Tell Agrab, Shara Temple; Jamdat Nasr/Early Dynastic I, ca. 3100-2750 B.C. Gypsum (?). Excavated by the Oriental Institute, 1935-6. This elaborate vessel was discovered in the Shara Temple where it was probably used to place offerings before the god. The decoration of its openwork support shows a hero, naked except for a double-strand belt, grasping the rumps of two lions in his hands. The curling tails of two additional lions are tucked under his arms, and all four felines menace a bearded bull at the opposite end of the stand. Series of figures such as these, engaged in static combats, are common in ancient Mesopotamian art. Their exact meaning is unknown.

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