This realistic ewe’s head comes from a full sculpture of a sheep that was probably 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.
The history of Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, begins in the Uruk era with the Sumerians’ invention of 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.