This realistic ewe’s head probably comes from a full sculpture of a sheep that was most likely displayed in a temple, but its precise ritualistic purpose is unknown. Sacred lambs are associated with the mother goddess, Ninhursag, and it has been suggested that the ewe symbolizes Duttur, the mother of Dumuzi, who was an important god of milk, sheepherding, and the netherworld. Sumerian temples owned large tracts of land and were very involved in animal husbandry. The herding of sheep and cattle is a recurrent theme in early Sumerian art and literature.
The recorded history of Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq, begins in the Uruk period (4th millennium b.c.) with the Sumerians’ invention of
the cuneiform script, the first writing system anywhere in the world. This period also saw the rise of complex city-states, with monumental architecture (including ziggurats), sophisticated bureaucracies, and a flourishing art and literature.
(Elie Borowski [1913-2003], Basel, Switzerland);
(Ben Heller, Inc., New York), by 1979;
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1979.