January 22, 2013

0481 IRAQ - The lyre of Princess Shub-Ad of Ur

Is known that, as part of the Fertile Crescent, Tigris-Euphrates river system, named Mesopotamia ([land] between rivers) by Ancient Greeks and corresponding mostly to modern-day Iraq, was one of the cradles of civilization. The rise of the first cities in southern Mesopotamia dates from ca. 5300 BC (Uruk period), but only on the middle of the 4th millennium BC there established the Sumerians, who developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis with the Akkadians. Ur was one of the important Sumerian city-state, located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar, now an inland settlement, but in the ancient period a coastal city near the mouth of the Euphrates. It dates from ca. 3800 BC, and is recorded in written history as a City State from the 26th century BC.

One of the objects which have survived from the 26th century BC (exposed today in the Museum in Baghdad) is the one on the postcard, a lyre decorated with a head of a bull (gilded wood), which belonged to Princess Shub-Ad. This instrument, the earliest stringed instrument ever found, made before the construction of the Great Pyramid or the Stonehenge, is the best preserved of the three original lyres of Ur found in 1929, the other two being held in the Museums of Pennsylvania and London, which took part to the digs.

These lyres were found in some Royal graves, described as "the poignant scene of a mass suicide. Tens of bodies lay, as if asleep, dressed in similar costumes, identical jewellery: head dresses covered in gold and beads of lapis lazuli, carnelian and silver. In a corner of one of the graves a pile of very deteriorated musical instuments, three lyres and a harp." Sir Leonard Woolley describes the scene as being "…as if last player had her arm over her harp….certainly she played to the end."

In April 2003, this lyre was damaged by looters at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, being found in the car park of the museum, broken in pieces and stripped of its silver and pure gold sheet covering. The Bull's Head was later found in the National Bank of Iraq. You can read here how it was restored.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series issued with the occasion of Olimpique Games London 2012:
• Archery (250 IQD)
• Gymnastics (500 IQD)
• Fencing (750 IQD)
• Athletics (1000 IQD) - it's on the postcard

Sumer - Wikipedia
Lyre of Ur - Lyre of Ur

sender: Bilal Al-Bakri (direct swap)
sent from Mosul (Iraq), on 16.12.2012

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