Cow's Head Detail, Silver Lyre, Ur

Cow's Head Detail, Silver Lyre, Ur

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Uncovering the Magnificent Instruments

When Woolley started to dig at the ancient site of Ur he had no idea how many priceless treasures it held. The riddle of the royal tombs, where dozens of servants had been buried with their rulers, is one of the creepiest ancient stories about funerary culture.

Leonard Woolley holding the hardened plaster mold of the Sumerian Queen's Lyre, 1922. ( Public Domain )

Lyres are instruments with strings that used to be strummed with a pick, or by hand, to make a peaceful sound. You would need to be calm and gentle with this instrument to make it play heavenly music. It was very popular in the court of Sumerian kings and many of them wanted to take this pleasant-sounding music to the afterlife. Therefore, many lyres were discovered in the Royal Cemetery of Ur. They are dated back to the Early Dynastic III Period (2550 – 2450 BC). Researchers suppose that they had 11 strings.

The zither

Several different types of instruments are classified as zithers they are used today in all continents. The long zithers of China, Japan, and Korea, which have a curved surface and a long, narrow shape, display a possible link to the idiochordic bamboo zithers of the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and southeastern Africa. The importance of bamboo to music in Asia is literally legendary in Java, music is thought to have been first produced by the accidental admission of air into a bamboo tube. In China musical instruments are classified according to their constructional material one of the eight substances in the system is bamboo, which the Chinese relate to the direction East, the season Spring, and the phenomenon Mountain. The Chinese zheng, a zither, includes the radical meaning “bamboo” in its ideograph. The ideographs of the older zithers—the qin and the se—are more difficult to interpret, however. Zithers of this type are known to have existed in the Shang period (c. 1600–1046 bce ) the zheng was first documented during the Qin period (221–207 bce ). By the 8th century, this instrument had been introduced to Japan, where, as the 13-string koto, it flourishes today. The koto, like the zheng, is played frequently by women, though the head of a koto guild is usually a man.

A relative newcomer to the spectrum of Chinese zithers is the yangqin (“foreign zither”), the prototype of which reached China from Persia sometime during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) it is the only representative of the box zither in East Asia. Sundanese chamber music of Indonesia often uses a kacapi, a box zither, usually with 18–20 strings and movable bridges. The history of this type of chordophone is obscure indeed, but two instruments of this general shape that may be very old are the African raft and board zithers. The raft zither is constructed on the idiochordic principle, but it uses a number of canes about half an inch (1.5 cm) in diameter each of these has one string raised out of its own surface, and all of the canes are then lashed together. The board zither is made from a hollowed-out board over which a number of strings are attached. This latter instrument is found most notably in certain areas of East Africa it is possible that its principle of construction was carried to the Middle East by traders.

Medieval Arab authors (including Ibn Khaldūn) mention a plucked trapezoidal zither, the qānūn (derived from Greek kanōn, “rule”). The present-day instrument has a range of three octaves with three strings to each pitch, and a complex system of levers by which its many strings may be finely and quickly retuned to the various Arab scales. Closely related is the Persian-derived sanṭūr, another trapezoidal zither that is struck by two light hammers. Versions of this zither are found in China ( yangqin), Greece (santouri), and eastern Europe ( cimbalom). These trapezoidal zithers are the prototypes for the later keyboard instruments of western Europe: the qānūn, which is played with two plectra, became, with the addition of a keyboard, the harpsichord the cimbalom, with the addition of a keyboard, became the piano. In the Middle Ages the keyboard was attached to a number of instruments, including the lute, the hurdy-gurdy, and the various Scandinavian keyed fiddles, of which the Swedish nyckelharpa survives. The experiment was truly successful, however, only on the clavichord, harpsichord, and later the piano on the fiddle it always remained of peripheral importance.

Two Lyres from Ur

147 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 25 color, 44 b/w illus.
Cloth 2002 | ISBN 9780924171888 | $29.95t | Outside the Americas £22.99
Distributed for the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
View table of contents

During the 1928-29 season at Ur, in the Great Death Pit of the Royal Cemetery, C. Leonard Woolley discovered two spectacular musical instruments&mdasha silver Boat-shaped Lyre and a magnificent lyre with the head of a bull made of gold sheet and a lapis lazuli beard. This book chronicles their history, conservation, and reconservation. While little was known about mid-third millennium Mesopotamian archaeology early last century, it was clear that the Sumerians had developed a vigorous trade in luxury goods, with an economy that necessitated a highly structured government whose leaders could command rich and elaborate graves that included a full panoply of musical instruments.

In meticulous detail, using both traditional methods and new X-ray and electronic imaging investigative techniques, Maude de Schauensee probes and analyzes the construction of the two lyres held by the University Museum while providing an economic, historical, and sociological context in which to better understand them. She examines the decorative motifs along with the materials and the techniques of the builders of these instruments. The illustrations&mdash10 pieces of line art, 25 photographs, 6 CAT-scans, 5 X-rays, and 24 color plates&mdashsupply additional details. This book presents new information and conservation descriptions for the first time. Musicologists, art historians, Near East scholars and archaeologists, and general readers will find this book's new analysis of the instruments of an ancient culture of significant interest.

Maude de Schauensee, Associate Editor of the Hasanlu Publications Series and former Keeper of the Near Eastern Section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, is the author of articles on bronze working at Hasanlu, horse trappings and Assyrian reliefs, and other northwestern Iranian topics.

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Cow's Head Detail, Silver Lyre, Ur - History

The materials were specified exactly by God. Any deviation would bring certain death.

We must remember that the Israelites came out of Egypt as the people of God. They were descendants of Abraham, the first Hebrew. It is important to keep in mind the oath that God swore as He was cutting the covenant with Abraham:

Gen 15:13-14 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. "And also the nation whom they serve I will judge afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

And with great possessions they came out indeed, as it says:

Exod 3:20-22 "So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst and after that he will let you go. "And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. "But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians."

Exod 12:35-36 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

As the Israelites came to Mount Sinai the Lord instructed them as to what they were to bring as a free-will offering (spontaneous and voluntary giving) so that they could build the tabernacle. Notice what God spoke concerning His dwelling place the Tabernacle: (very important verses)

Ex 25:1-9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. "And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze "blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats' hair "ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood "oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense "onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. "According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

These materials are listed exactly as god had specified (nothing more and nothing less) because they would each have specific symbolic meaning relating to the true Tabernacle in Heaven and Jesus Christ. Nothing could be left to chance or man's imagination because if the Lord is to dwell here and pitch His tent with man, then man is to approach Him His way and no exceptions. The details of its construction would pattern in a temporal way, what God would one day do permanently through Jesus Christ. The Tabernacle would become a visible model of how we come to God through Jesus. Let's look now at the materials to be used in the construction of the Tabernacle and keep in mind that we must examine the symbolism from a Hebraic backdrop. The Old Testament is filled with figurative language that can be interpreted in the light of the context of the Hebrew Bible:

Materials (ordered by God)

According to Ex 38 they gave 2,800 lbs. of gold. Pure Gold throughout the scriptures speaks of divinity, that which cannot be reproduced by man. Gold is made by God and comes down from God. Gold speaks of the deity of Jesus Christ. It typifies the divine glory of the Lord Jesus as "the Son of God" and "God the Son". According to Ex 38 they gave 2,800 lbs. of gold.

Jesus was none other than Jehovah in the flesh. He is "Malach Yaweh," Jehovah the King. When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up as the King in all His glory John in the New Testament tell us that it was Jesus that he saw:

John 12:41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.

Silver came to 9,600 lbs. Throughout the Scriptures, silver figuratively speaks of redemption. It was always used as redemption money:

Ex 30:16 "And you shall take the redemption money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves."

The tabernacle stood upon sockets of silver. Both Joseph and Jesus were sold for silver. Judas was paid off in silver as the Scriptures said. Silver is redemption money. Silver is symbolic of the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ and Him alone. It prefigures the preciousness of Christ as the ransom for sinners. Notice also that there is no silver mentioned in heaven. The people will already have been redeemed.

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

A total of 6,700 lbs. of bronze was given for use in those places where exceptional strength and heat resistance was important. Bronze has a melting point of 1,985 degrees. It was important in the altar where intense heat was present. They brought bronze not brass. Brass comes from a mixture of copper and tin where bronze comes from copper and zinc.

Bronze represents judgment. When Moses raised the bronze serpent it spoke of the power of the serpent being judged through the raising of the Son of God:

Num 21:9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Bronze typifies the divine character of Christ who took upon Himself the fire of God's wrath, holiness and justice by becoming a sin offering.

2 Cor 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Matt 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

Woven into or embroidered on the linen were blue, purple, and scarlet threads. The Hebrew word for blue means shellfish. A brilliant dye was excreted from this mollusk. This bright color is always mentioned first. Man needed something to suggest the idea of heaven as a place from which God reveals Himself more fully than on earth. Therefore the color blue represents heaven, the color of the sky. Blue was always mentioned throughout the tabernacle to remind man that his destination is heaven and because of our Redeemer we are destined to be in God's Presence. Blue speaks of that which comes down from above ("from above" is a Jewish idiom for heaven). Remember when the woman touched the blue hem of Jesus' garment? We see the loveliness of the blue in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ who was not only heavenly in His origin but in His very nature and ways.

Jn 3:31 "He who comes from above is above all he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

The Hebrews would get this color from mixing blue and scarlet together. This deep red-purple color was a color of royalty (Kingly).

Judg 8:26 ornaments, pendants, and purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the chains that were around their camels' necks.

The color purple typifies Jesus as King of king's and Lord of lord's, but there is another important truth. The mixing of blue and scarlet. Blue speaks of that which comes down from above, and scarlet, as we shall see, represents blood and death, sacrifice. Purple is a combination of both, which speaks of Christ as both God and Man, the Man who came from heaven to die. In some mysterious way He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh.

Isa 33:17 Your eyes will see the King in His beauty they will see the land that is very far off.

'Scarlet thread' (Sacrifice)

The scarlet was derived from an Eastern insect (worm) that infests certain trees. It was gathered, crushed, dried, and ground to a powder that produced a brilliant crimson hue. Scarlet speaks of sacrifice and typifies Christ in His sufferings. The crucifixion Psalm 22 quotes Jesus as saying - "I am a worm". God somehow took upon Himself a body of flesh and blood and then died giving His life as a ransom for us all by being crushed in the mills of God's justice.

Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Heb 9:26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

The linen was most interesting. Made from Egyptian flax, it was finely woven, brilliantly white, and bore a special name, "byssus". This material was used for garments for royalty and persons of rank and has been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Linen in one tomb was found to have 152 threads per inch in the warp and 72 threads per inch in the woof. White linen always speaks of purity and righteousness:

Rev 15:6 And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.

Rev 3:5 "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."

Rev 19:14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

The fine-twined, white linen speaks of righteousness and typifies Jesus, the Son of Man, spotless, pure, and sinless.

I Jn 3:3-5 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. and you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.

'Goats Hair' (Cursed sin offering)

Goats were common in those days for their milk, their meat, their skin which was used for many things such as water bottles, etc., and their hair, which was very long, dark and course, was spun and woven into cloth. The goat was a sacrificial animal. The Goat's Hair covering was the first above the tabernacle curtain. This drab color tells us of Jesus in His humility and poverty. Goatskins were worn by the poor and throughout the Bible represented extreme poverty.

Heb 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented--

Lk 9:58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

And the hair speaks of Christ as the separated One, just as the hair must be separated from the goat, so Christ had to sacrifice His own covering in order to provide a covering for others.

Another interesting point about the goat is that it was used on the Day of Atonement. After the high priest completed the blood sprinkling in the holy of holies he would go into the court of the tabernacle and lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, confessing over it all the sins of the people. The goat was then led away, by a man standing ready, into the wilderness, and there let free, to signify the carrying away of Israel's sins which God had forgiven. This reminds us of Jesus, humble and poor, becoming a curse for us, that we might have our sins carried away into the land of forgetfulness.

2 Cor 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

'Rams skins dyed red' (Substitutionary sacrifice)

A ram is a grown male sheep and the head of the flock. A shepherd may have one or two rams in a flock of ewes to promote uniformity. The ram is forever in the eyes of the Jew as the substitute animal, faithful unto death. This is of course because God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac on that day when Abraham's faith was revealed.

Gen 22:12-13 And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

The ram's skins were dyed red to represent the sacrifice of a substitute. So Jesus as the head of the human race, the last Adam, sacrificed His own life as a substitute for all who would put their trust in Him.

Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

Heb 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Jn 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

'Badger skins' (Outward appearance-unattractive)

Badger skins were the final covering, the outer covering that everyone saw. They were tough and course and very plain in their appearance. But how does this speak of Christ? It speaks of what Christ was to man. There was no outward beauty to the tabernacle proper, so it was with Christ when He came to earth when He pitched His tabernacle among men. As the prophet foretold:

Is 53:1-2 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

What was Jesus to the Jews? nothing but a course, hard badger skin. What is Jesus to the world today? nothing but a course, hard badger skin. But to those of us who have opened up our hearts to Him He is much much more. He is the "altogether lovely One", He is the "Rose of Sharon", the "Lily of the Valley", and the "Fairest among 10,000" to our souls. If anyone desired to look beyond the outer flesh covering they would see the transfiguration of Christ's glory. "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Jesus says, "Come and see".

Jn 1:10-14 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

'Acacia Wood' (Incorruptible humanity) also called Shittim Wood

The Shittah tree grew in the deserts of Sinai, and the deserts around the Dead Sea. The wood is hard, very heavy, indestructible by insects, and has a fine, beautiful grain. It was remarkably luxuriant in dry places, sometimes attaining a height of twenty feet. It had lovely yellow flowers and its insect-resisting Acacia wood was used in making mummy cases. This Acacia wood undoubtedly speaks of the incorruptible humanity of Christ, for we are told that His humanity would never see corruption.

Ps 16:10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

He was the truly human One, "the man Christ Jesus". The Bible calls Him, "the son of Mary", and the "son of man". A body was prepared for Him:

Heb 10:5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.

And that body He still possesses in a glorified form. "This same Jesus" is in heaven right now and one day will return for us and glorify us also:

1 Jn 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Rom 8:18-21 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

'Oil' (The Spirits anointing)

The oil was obtained by crushing the olive berries of the land. Oil, as we know, was the liquid used when the prophet, priest, and king were anointed in Old Testament times. And because of passages like:

1 Jn 2:20-21 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

1 Sam 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

Is 32:15 Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest.

We have scriptural authority for seeing the oil as a type of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible the olive tree is symbolic of many things:

Hos 14:6 His branches shall spread his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.

Ps 52:8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.

Judg 9:9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

The Holy Spirit, then, as olive oil, is the One who possesses all that man needs for life and godliness. Richness, fertility, and beauty are all His in an abundant measure. Jesus was anointed by God as prophet, priest, and king. Everything Christ did was filled with richness, fertility, and beauty because He was the temple of the Holy Spirit and filled with all fulness:

Jn 3:34 "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

It is interesting that the olives weren't beaten or pressed but crushed. So Jesus was crushed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb. Oil Press) and then by the very wrath of God on a Roman cross, as the Scriptures say:

Is 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

The anointing oil was restricted for tabernacle use only, anyone violating the command was put to death. The olive oil was to be pure and nothing but pure because it represents the HOLY Spirit of Christ. The word "Christ" is the Greek word for the Hebrew "Mashiach" (Messiah) which means "the anointed One". It literally means "to smear" as with oil. The oil was also used to anoint the Holy Tabernacle and its furniture, and to light the golden lampstand.

'Spices for the oil and incense' (Sweet smelling fragrance to God)

There were three spices to be added to the frankincense and oil:

Ex 30:34 And the LORD said to Moses: "Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices there shall be equal amounts of each.

A powder from the hardened drops of the fragrant resin found in the bark of the Myrrh bush. The word means "a drop".

A powder from the horny shell cover of a clam-like mollusk found in the Red Sea. When burnt, this powder emits a penetrating aroma. The Hebrew word means- "aromatic shell". The Red Sea is an isolated warm water pocket of the Indian ocean and is known for its peculiar subspecies of mollusks.

A brownish pungent resin that exudes from the lower part of the stem of a Ferula plant. This herb plant is found at the Mediterranean Sea and has thick stalks, yellow flowers, and fern-like green foliage. It has a musky, pungent smell and is valuable because it preserves the scent of a mixed perfume, and allows of its distribution over a long period of time.

In these spices or perfumes we see Jesus as the sweet smelling aroma bringing joy to the Father's heart. When mixed with the olive oil we see the sweet illuminating work of the Spirit of Christ, and when mixed with frank-incense we see the sweetness of prayer as a "sweet smelling aroma in God's nostrils". How fitting that these perfumes would point to Christ.

Jn 8:29 "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."

Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

2 Cor 2:15-16 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

"And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among (in) them" - Exodus 25:8

The Purpose and Heart of the Law - A Devotional Message

The Tabernacle of Ancient Israel was a sanctuary which was given in a vision to Moses as a pattern and constructed by the children of Israel. God's promise was that He would dwell within the Holy of Holies above the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.

Why Study the Tabernacle?

A) 50 Chapters Mention The Tabernacle

Because at least 50 chapters (13-Ex, 18-Lev, 13-Num, 2-Deut, 4-Heb) in the Bible tell of the construction, the ritual, the priesthood, the carrying of the tabernacle, and the meaning of it all. Also many other places in Scripture speak in figurative language concerning the tabernacle. In many Bible studies this subject is overlooked and considered insignificant.

B) The Tearing of the Veil

God Himself thought so much of the importance of the type, as shown by the tearing of the veil:

Matt 27:50-51 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

If we don't understand the meaning in Scripture of the holy of holies and the veil we miss out on extremely significant information concerning exactly what Christ's death meant to sinful mankind.

C) The Tabernacle is a Type of Christ:

Remember what the Word says, "all Scripture is given by inspiration (God-breathed) of God. " When we look at the Bible we must remember that it is completely God-breathed. When we look at each Word we must remember that every Word is specifically God-breathed. That was the view of Christ when it came to the Scriptures, that was the view of the apostles, and that must be our view. This is the very Word of God. It doesn't just contain the Word of God, or just point to religious experience, this is the Word of God.

Is it any wonder then that each and every detail and Word about the tabernacle has spiritual significance? As we look to the tabernacle structure itself and its unique pieces of redemptive furniture there is great symbolism and typology found in them. Remember, everything was a finger pointing to the Messiah. The tabernacle, as a type, designed specifically and in detail by God, would point to the character and aspects of the ministry of Christ. The more we become familiar with the tabernacle the more we become familiar with Christ and all that He means to us. What a great reason to become familiar with the Scriptures concerning the tabernacle.

Heb 10:20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

Col 2:17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Jn 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

D) It is a Representation of the True Tabernacle in Heaven:

The Lord wants us to be aware of His nature and character. Even the angels don't fully understand the nature and character of God but they learn from watching His dealings with His church (Eph 3). Things are really happening in the heavenly dimension and the Lord wants to reveal to us what took place in heaven after the resurrection of Christ. There is a real tabernacle in the heavenlies and Christ really appeared before the throne of heaven as the Lamb of God (Rev 5). There is no doubt that some of these things are a mystery but the more we draw close to God and His Word the more He draws close to us.

Heb 9:11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

E) The Presence Within the Holy of Holies Dwells Within the Believer in Jesus:

Jesus said I am the temple (Mishkan) of God. When the glory (Heb. Sh'chinah) would come down like a tornado or funnel right through the roof of the holy of holies and the Presence would manifest on the mercy seat between the cherubim after the blood was sprinkled, that was the mishkan. That Presence was what Jesus said dwelt within Him. And in fact Paul said about the church, "Know ye not that you are the temple (Mishkan) of God?" We, as the body of Christ, have the same Presence dwelling within us. God doesn't dwell in buildings now but within His people.

1 Cor 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

F) Its teaching covers in type almost all of New Testament truth.

The study of the tabernacle is so rich in meaning to the Christian and so pregnant with Messianic significance that we can spend a lifetime in the study of it and only begin to understand the riches and the depth of truth that lies within the study of the tabernacle.

Rom 15:4 "Whatever things that were written before were written for our learning."

G) Studying the Tabernacle will absolutely strengthen our faith in the Bible.

Be assured that anyone who has delved into the wonderful details of the tabernacle will confess that the Bible is more than just a book. No man could have thought of this. The Bible is the Word of God.

"all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. "

Nanna/Suen/Sin (god)

Mesopotamian moon god. He was called Nanna in Sumerian, and Su'en or Sin in Akkadian. The earliest writings of both are roughly contemporary, and occur interchangeably. An additional name, which is only attested in literary texts, is Dilimbabbar. The true etymologies of both Nanna and Su'en remain unclear (Krebernik 1993-98b: 360-64).


Possible depiction of the god Nanna, seated on a temple-like throne, on a fragment of the Stele of Ur-Namma at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (object number B16676.14) (ca. 2100 BCE). The stele was excavated at Ur. © Penn Museum.

The ziggurat  TT  , or temple tower, of Nanna at Ur. It was built by king Ur-Namma of Ur (r. about 2112-2095 BCE), the founder of the Ur III dynasty. The monumental temple tower is built of solid bricks. © Penn Museum.

The moon god was the tutelary deity of the city of Ur. His reach and importance, however, was far greater than just a city god, the moon god is clearly one of the most important deities in the wider pantheon of Mesopotamia. In the Early Dynastic god lists, such as Fara SF 1, the moon god appears immediately after the four leading gods An, Enlil, Inana and Enki (Klein 2001: 290, and this important, albeit slightly junior position, is confirmed in the text Nanna-Suen's Journey to Nippur (ETCSL 1.5.1: 18), when Nanna brings the "first fruit offerings" to Enlil, the head of the early Mesopotamian pantheon (Black et al. 2004: 147).

The primary symbol of the moon god was as a bull, the result of the horizontal crescent of the waxing moon appearing similar to the horns of that animal. This symbolism led to a consideration of the moon god as a cowherd, which is celebrated most clearly in the composition The Herds of Nanna (ETCSL 4.13.06), the longest section of which enumerates the cattle in Nanna's herd.

An association with fertility may come from the moon god's connection to cattle, and also, perhaps, from the clear link to the menstrual cycle, roughly similar to the timing of the moon's transformations. The connection with fertility is demonstrated in the Old Babylonian (early second-millennium) birth incantations (Krebernik 1993-98b: 367 Veldhuis 1991). The magical-medical text A Cow of Sin relates the story of the moon god's beautiful and pregnant cow, Geme-Sin. The birthing-pains of Geme-Sin are eased by Sin, and the incantation ends with a 'supplication: "may this woman give birth as easily as Geme-Sin" suggesting this text's role in human child-birth (Veldhuis 1991: 1).

Other literature makes much of the moon as an astronomical feature. The deity is referred to in terms characteristic of the celestial body, e.g., radiant, shining, and much is made of the moon's path and cycle, which were also keenly observed for omens of the future, for example in the first-millennium series šumma Sin ina tāmartišu, "If the moon at its appearance" (Hunger and Pingree 1999: 21 ff.).

The Akkadian literature evokes some of the other functions of the moon god. A prayer to Su'en details his role in divination (Foster 2005: 758-9). No doubt this divinatory role was also connected to the moon god's ability to illuminate darkness (Foster 2005: 760-1). Both the moon god and the sun god are praised together in a further text in which they are associated with issuing laws and verdicts, the determination of destinies, and the announcements of omens (Foster 2005: 762). This judicial role was already obvious in the text of the Early Dynastic 'Stele of the Vultures', where oaths are taken in the presence of Su'en, and in his epithet "diviner of fates", which is used across the Near East (Krebernik 1993-98b: 367).

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

In the Sumerian myth Enlil and Ninlil (ETCSL 1.2.1), the moon god is described as the first-born son of Enlil and Ninlil, and the moon god's three brothers are listed: Nergal-Meslamtaea, Ninazu (both underworld deities) and Enbililu (who was responsible for irrigation). There has been some suggestion that this position as the 'first born son of Enlil' might reflect the importance of Ur during the Ur III period. There are also occasional references to a paternal/fillial relationship between An and the moon god (Klein 2001: 295-7), but such are probably general references to An in his role as father of all the gods (Krebernik 1993-98b: 364-5).

The moon god's wife is the goddess Ningal (Akk. Nikkal) and their children are Inana and Utu (Edzard 1965: 102). The god list AN = Anum also names Ningublaga as the son of the moon god, and Amarra-azu and Amarra-he'ea as his daughters. Another child of the moon god known from Old Babylonian sources is Numušda (Hall 1985: 742). Nanna's vizier was Alammuš. In the first millenium Nuska, a vizier of Enlil, was thought of as a son of Su'en (specifically the Su'en of Harran) - a relationship which is possibly a result of contact/conflation with Aramaic religious beliefs (Krebernik 1993-98b: 365-8).

Cult Places

From the earliest periods, Nanna/Su'en was the patron deity of the city of Ur [

/images/Ur.jpg] . The name of his main sanctuary in Ur was é-kiš-nu-gál, the name also used for the moon god's sanctuaries in Babylon [

/images/Nippur.jpg] (George 1993: 114). From the Akkadian period until the middle of the Old Babylonian period, the daughter of the reigning king was appointed to be the high-priestess of the moon god at Ur (Krebernik 1993-98b: 367-9). The most famous of these is Enheduanna, who is the purported author of several Sumerian literary works (e.g. the Temple Hymns, ETCSL 4.80.1 and Inana B, ETCSL 4.07.2). However, Enheduanna's authorship has been seriously questioned (Civil 1980 Black 2002 Rubio 2009 Lion 2011). Other Mesopotamian cult places for the moon god include Ga'eš, a place in the neighbourhood of Ur [

/images/Urum.jpg] , modern Tell `Uqair located east of Babylon, where the moon god was honoured as Dilimbabbar. Beyond the alluvial plains of Mesopotamia, a cult centre of Nanna/Su'en is attested at Harran [

/images/Harran.jpg] , south-east of modern Urfa [

/images/Urfa.jpg] , from the Old Babylonian period onwards, where the temple name was é-húl-húl "House of Rejoicing" (Krebernik 1993-98b: 368). At Harran a long inscription was found on a stele, which commemorates Adda-guppi, the mother of Nabonidus, and which celebrates her reverence of the moon god. Another stele inscription from Harran describes Nabonidus' accession to the throne, which is here described as being at the will of Su'en, and that he rebuilt the é-húl-húl temple (Gadd 1958).

Time Periods Attested

The earliest attestation of this name dates back to the very beginning of written documentations. In personal names the moon god is attested from the Late Uruk period until the very end of the cuneiform tradition. Not only is he frequently attested in personal names, a testimony to personal piety, he is also frequently invoked in royal names from the earlier to the late periods, for example: Naram-Sin (Old Akkadian) Amar-Su'en, Šu-Sin, Ibbi-Sin (all Ur III) Sin-iddinam (Old Babylonian), Sennacherib (Akkadian: Sin-ahhe-eruba – from the Neo Assyrian period) (Cohen 1996: 9 Krebernik 1993-98b: 360 Hall 1985: 56-91).

Not surprisingly it is from the Third Dynasty of Ur that come the greatest number of attestations and clearest indications of worship. Many dedicatory inscriptions of canals, buildings and objects record the worship and patronage of Su'en, most during Ur-Namma's reign. The perhaps most obvious of these is the temple tower ( ziggurat  TT  ) at Ur, built under Ur-Namma. The year names continue to record events related to the moon god, most commonly the installation of the high-priestesses of the moon god at Ur, and for Nanna-Karzida at Gaeš (Hall 1985: 130-2), while offerings are very commonly attested (Hall 1985). The royal hymns, particularly those to Šulgi often include subscripts to Nanna, for example Šulgi D (ETCSL Klein 2001: 285). Among this literature are the 15 hymns to Nanna, which include A Balbale to Suen (ECTSL 4.13.01) and A tigi to Su'en (ECTSL 4.13.09).

Worship of the moon god continued throughout the Old Babylonian period, as attested in both personal names and royal names as well as numerous building inscriptions, year dates and offerings (Hall 1985 Collon 1992: 20).

The moon god seems to have fallen out of favour somewhat in the period of 1500-1000 BCE (Foster 2005: 758-62), but experienced a revival during the first millennium, in particular in personal names of the Neo-Assyrian period (Radner and Baker 1998-2011). Su'en often appears second, after the pre-eminent deity Aššur, among the gods invoked to bless the king (SAA 1, 133 line 1). Some scholars have argued that the Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus promoted the moon god within the pantheon of Babylonia, but more recently it has been suggested that this is an over-interpretation of the evidence available (Kuhrt_1995: 600). Nevertheless, Nabonidus also reconstructed the temple of Sin at Ur and reinstated the position of the high-priestess priestess of the moon god at Ur.


While the moon god is commonly attested in the literature and texts of Mesopotamia, he is not as commonly reflected in the visual iconography. Anthropomorphic representations are known from the Ur III period royal iconography, but second millennium BCE images are rare, which is surprising given that Nanna/Su'en formed the most popular theophoric element in Old Babylonian names. A painting of the moon god is attested at Mari (Room 132), and these relatively rare figurative images continue down to the Neo-Assyrian period, for example Sennacherib's rock relief at Maltai. By far the most common images of this deity appear on cylinder seals, known from across Mesopotamian history (Collon 1992: 22, 27).

The moon god is most frequently represented by his symbol, the crescent moon (Sumerian u4-sakar, Akkadian u/ašqāru). This iconography is already known form Early Dynastic seals, and continues throughout Mesopotamian history and across the Ancient Near East. The crescent shape had an impact on other symbols which came to be associated with Nanna/Suen, primarily the moon god's association with the bull (Krebernik 1993-98b: 360). Additionally, Nanna/Su'en is often attested in connection with a boat. Other iconographic symbols include a rather enigmatic tripod, and it is now thought that many of the motifs once thought to be solely associated with the sun god - such as rays, gates and a god-figure rising between mountains, might now also be considered iconographic characteristics of the moon god. Such similarities should not be surprising given that the moon provided the light of the night-time, as the sun did for the day (Krebernik 1993-98b: 374-7).

Name and Spellings

Nanna: In the Early Dynastic period: d ŠEŠ.NA (with the sign NA acting as a phonetic complement) later d ŠEŠ.KI or d ŠEŠ+KI, syllabically: na-an-na (Cohen 1996: 9 Krebernik 1993-98b: 360).

Su'en/Sin: first attested at Ebla from ca. 2400 BCE spelled d EN.ZU, but read Su'en in Sumerian names, and Sin in Akkadian names. For discussions of this rebus-writing, see Krebernik 1993-98b: 360-2. From the Old Babylonian period onward: (d) 30, clearly related to the close connection between the moon and the month (Krebernik 1993-98b: 360-1).

Dilimbabbar (previously read Ašimbabbar): An alternative name or epithet. The logographic writing DIL-im2-babbar suggests two possible, and perhaps not mutually exclusive interpretations. The Sumerian word pronounced 'dilim' (written DILIM2) can refer to a bowl, a possibly valid metaphor for the quarter-moon, and the use of DI, might have been a play upon the meaning of this term as 'unique', while babbar is the Sumerian for "white" (Cohen 1996: 11 n.20).

Category Archives: Ur-Zababa

A long while ago, I wanted to write about Ku-Baba, the only woman on the Sumerian King List. I went first to my go-to source on anything Sumerian, Sumerian Shakespeare, and found that Jerald Starr, the brain behind the site, had not mentioned Ku-Baba at all. It was as if I was just imagining this rather intriguing figure.

Nonetheless, I wrote to Starr with the hope he would have some information about Ku-Baba, or at least a good source he could point me toward. His response, which was basically doubt that she existed at all, left me feeling like I was at a dead end at the time, so I abandoned the idea of writing about her.

Fast forward to today, and Starr has changed his mind. “I had to revise my opinion,” he wrote to me in a surprise email. He also included a link to a new post on his website, in which he explains in detail how he arrived at the conclusion that Ku-Baba might have existed after all.

“For a long time I doubted that Ku-Baba even existed,” he writes in the post. “I believed the reference was a sly mean-spirited joke by the scribe who wrote the King List.”

What changed Starr’s mind was an alabaster statue at the Louvre from Girsu, with a little too much eye makeup to be just your run-of-the-mill Sumerian priestess, as he had initially believed. “When I first saw the statue, I believed it was a Sumerian priestess because she seems to be wearing a circular headband,” he writes, “. . .although for a priestess I thought she was a bit heavy-handed with the makeup.”

From the eyes, Starr traveled back up to the head, where it became clear to him that it was no headband this statue was wearing–that it was a hat he’d never seen on a Sumerian woman before. “The hat on the statue most closely resembles a shepherd hat, the crown of a Sumerian king,” he writes.

And from there, Starr writes as only he can about the minutest details to put Ku-Baba, the first woman ruler in history, back into the realm of possibility, giving me a chance to write about Ku-Baba like I had originally wanted.

The First Woman Ruler

Ku-Baba, Kug-Bau in Sumerian, is the only female monarch on the Sumerian King List. She ruled between 2500 BC and 2330 BC. On the list itself, she is identified as:

… the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish, became king she ruled for 100 years.

Every source I came across in my research, including Starr, questioned how a woman who was a tavern-keeper became king. They then went on to explain that tavern keeping was one of many occupations Mesopotamian women could hold. Now, aside from Starr, said sources all described tavern keeping as a well-respected occupation, even while some mentioned that taverns in Sumer were pretty much brothels. This complicates further the rationale of a woman tavern-keeper becoming king, but in her article titled, “Kubaba, A Queen Among Kings,” Carly Silver writes, “Regardless of what kind of show they were running, women often ran taverns, holding perhaps one of the only independent female positions of power in ancient Sumer.”

Silver drives home the rather high status of the tavern-keeper profession by mentioning Siduri, the female tavern-keeper Gilgamesh meets in the Underworld in his quest for immortality in the epic of his namesake. In it, the tavern-keeper gives Gilgamesh, a powerful god-king, sage advice about the nature of human life, how short it is, and how one ought to enjoy it.

“So, in what was probably a very important epic even in antiquity,” she writes, “a female tavern-keeper was seen as a guide along perilous paths and a figure worthy of veneration.”

Conversely, Starr’s description of the status of a tavern-keeper, or barmaid, is one that is very different from Silver’s. He writes, “Throughout history, a barmaid was typically considered to be a woman of loose morals, freely available to the patrons of the tavern, and little better than a common prostitute.”

So, how can this be? Several sources commend tavern keeping as a respectable occupation, almost making it sound like it was a foot in the door for Ku-Baba to become queen in her own right, while one all but ascribes it to prostitutes.

It helps that Starr does mention a distinction between a mere barmaid who slings drinks and provides patrons with her company, and someone who owns the establishment where this business takes place, a distinction other sources do not mention. Starr also classifies an owner of a tavern as “middle class,” while iterating that the employee slinging the drinks is “a commoner, and a lowly commoner at that.”

Furthermore, in order to see more clearly how tavern keeping relates to Ku-Baba’s rise to royalty, it helps to look at the picture in a different way.

According to Starr, even though there is no question Ku-Baba was a commoner, she might not have been a tavern-keeper. Starr states in his post that it was her parents who were tavern-keepers, a nugget he says her enemies distorted and used against her to tarnish her reputation and legacy. “I believe Ku-Baba was unfairly characterized as a bawd (the usual description of a female barkeeper) for propaganda reasons,” Starr writes. “I believe it was a deliberate attempt to sully her reputation. It is the kind of thing her enemies would say about her.”

Bottom line, we must let go of the idea that Ku-Baba was a tavern-keeper to get to the bottom of how she became a queen in her own right, because everything is questionable when you have an enemy, which she did, according to Starr.

And who was that enemy, you ask? Sargon of Akkad, our favorite baby in a basket here at AllMesopotamia.

Again, I point you toward Starr’s article for a more comprehensive telling of this story and presentation of the case involving Ku-Baba’s previous profession, but Sargon of Akkad usurped the throne of Kish from Ur-Zababa, Ku-Baba’s grandson, 31 years after her death, serving as background for Starr’s conclusion.

But how did Ku-Baba take the throne?

In her article titled “Ku-Bau, the First Woman Ruler,” Darci Clark writes, “In general, other women in Mesopotamian society would only be able to exert any political influence through their relationships to the king.”

Starr echoes Clark’s statement: “Sumerian queens were always the wives of kings. They never governed on their own.”

Okay, but would a king marry a commoner?

“Although it is highly unlikely that a king would marry a commoner,” Starr explains, “it is certainly within the realm of possibility.”

It’s possible Ku-Baba married a king, but there is no mention of such a thing happening in ancient texts. Nevertheless, a king was involved. According to Clark, Ku-Baba became lugal of Kish after performing an act of kindness. It seems that a king–Puzur-Nirah, king of Akshak, namely–awarded Ku-Baba her kingship for a “pious deed.”

Researching this further, I came across an article on the website History Hustle, titled “Kubaba, the Bartender Who Became the First Woman Ruler in History,” which pointed me toward the Weidner Chronicle, an interesting ancient Babylonian religious text, where the deed and its reward are described:

In the reign of Puzur-Nirah, king of Akšak . . . Kubaba gave bread to the fisherman and gave water, she made him offer the fish to Esagila. Marduk the king, the prince of Apsu, favored her and said: “Let it be so!” He entrusted to Kubaba the tavernkeeper, sovereignty over the whole world. (Lines 43-45, Weidner Chronicle)

A Feminine Legacy

Very little is known about Ku-Baba’s reign. We do know that she made Kish strong, and that she reigned for 100 years. It is easy to conclude then that she was a successful monarch. Really, there’s no way she could have not been.

Starr writes, “Any female pretender to the throne who didn’t do an excellent job would quickly find herself in the middle of a coup d’état. She was capable enough, and respected enough, to stay in power and establish a dynasty.”

That dynasty, the 4th Dynasty of Kish, lasted for two generations, ending with the above-mentioned Ur-Zababa, son of Puzur-Suen, son of Ku-Baba. Not bad for a woman living in a man’s world, and a man’s world it was.

Carly Silver writes that Ku-Baba’s was remembered by later generations as an improper usurper. They would also refer to Ku-Baba when describing things that are not as they should be–women taking on men’s roles has never been popular. “By taking on the duties of a man – a king – Kubaba was seen to have crossed a boundary and transcended gender divisions in an improper fashion,” Silver writes.

Ku-Baba was also referenced when a lung didn’t look so good, or a child was born with both male and female genitalia. “Combining male and female genitalia in an individual would echo her reign as lugal, or king, which the ancients saw as violating the natural order of things,” Silver writes.

Nonetheless, Ku-Baba lived in people’s memories until Babylonian times, becoming a goddess. “But she was still a barmaid,” Starr explains. “She is portrayed as a kindly woman in all of the stories about her . . . Ku-Baba never lost the ‘common touch’. Queen Ku-Baba was always ‘the people’s queen’.”

Whether her legacy when she was an actual memory was a positive or negative one, today, in 2017, Ku-Baba’s legacy is that of (written) history’s first woman ruler, one who could only be slandered by a past that might have been falsified by her enemy, and one whose ascendancy to the throne was built upon kindness.

One Lyre for humanity

When the Baghdad Museum was looted and vandalized in April 2003, most of us could only stand by and watch in horror as part of the world’s history and humanity was lost. And after the initial shock wore off, and for some it never did, some great people got to work right away to restore what was lost.

I’m unfortunately not one of those people, but I’m going to tell you about two such men, one, a pioneer of Mesopotamian archaeology, and the other a musician with passion, both of who do in the most legitimate way possible qualify as members of that elite of humanity.

Before I do that, I will tell you about this, the Golden Lyre of Ur:

The Golden Lyre of Ur on display at the Baghdad Museum before the looting.

This Golden Lyre of Ur was one of thousands of items that fell victim to the looters that awful day in 2003. It is believed to be as much as 4,750 years old. If I may take a moment to put into perspective just how old 4,750 years old is: the Golden Lyre of Ur predates Christianity, Judaism and the construction of the Great Pyramid in Egypt…

Originally excavated with more than a dozen other stringed instruments in 1929 by British archaeologist, Sir Leonard Woolley from the Royal Graves of Ur, the Golden Lyre of Ur was found in the grave of Queen Pu’abi. Queen Pu’abi is believed to have died in 2600 BC.

Queen Pu’abi’s crowned and jewel-adorned body was found along with 74 other bodies, 68 of who were female. The males and females found were all wearing the same type of clothing and each holding a vessel believed to have contained the poison they all drank for their mass suicide. This was part of their duty to their queen as sacrificial victims.

One of those unfortunate females was the Golden Lyre player, whose hand bones were found placed over where the strings would have been.

Sir Leonard Woolley holding a Lyre like the one found in Queen Pu'abi's grave.

The wooden sections of the Golden Lyre had decayed over the centuries, so Woolley used careful methods to avoid damaging the ancient find any further, which aside from wood, was also made of gold, lapis lazuli, gulf shell, pink limestone and bitumen. Before removing the fragile ancient find from the ground, Woolley poured plaster of Paris to fill in the deteriorated parts of the wood and then covered the whole thing with strips of waxed cloth to hold it all together.

If it weren’t for Woolley’s care in excavating such a fragile and ancient piece of humanity’s history, I definitely would not be sitting here writing about the details of the Golden Lyre of Ur, and the wonderful project I’m about to tell you about might not have ever been completed, or even thought of.

Up until Andy Lowings, a harp enthusiast from England, felt a calling to recreate the Golden Lyre of Ur using all the materials used all those thousands of years ago, the instrument was unplayable. And now, after the looting of the Baghdad Museum in April 2003, the Golden Lyre of Ur is not even displayable, as it lies in broken pieces.

The Golden Lyre of Ur after the looting of the Baghdad Museum in 2003. Lowings said at a conference at the Library of Congress in March 2009: "It was vandalized and found broken in the car park."

Enter Lowings and an amazing network of people who care about the history of humanity formed a partnership of sorts that kept growing in size and contributions from universities across the globe, South African gold mines, the Royal goldsmith of Prince Charles, and even the British Royal Air Force, among other unlikely contributors– and a playable and as-close-to-authentic-as-possible Golden Lyre of Ur is now in existence.

You can read the details of how the Sumerian scenes were etched onto the Lyre with lasers and laser engineers at the University of Liverpool in this document.

The project began in 2003, shortly after the original Lyre was destroyed, and Lowings wanted every detail to be recreated, from the golden bullhead, to the Iraqi cedar wood used in the body of the Lyre. The project took three years to complete, and a labor of love–a love of music, of history, of humanity.

You can watch and hear Andy Lowings describe the three years of The Golden Lyre of Ur Project in his warm and compelling way of speaking in this video, recorded at a seminar at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, in March of 2009.

Listen to this piece of music from the strings of Lowings’s reconstructed Golden Lyre of Ur and you might want to ask Lowings to bring this instrument (valued at $50,000) to your next educational event:

Today, Lowings’s project has brought with it a CD of the Lyre’s music and a group that will go wherever they are needed to perform and educate the world about the cradle of civilization, and one of the many tools it gave us to explore our humanity.

10 Medieval Torture Devices

­The period known as the Middle Ages stands out as one­ of ­the most violent eras in history. This epoch, lasting roughly 1,0­00­ years, from the 5th century to the 15th­, was a time of great inequality and brutality in much of Europe.

What really sets this time apart is the ghoulish inventiveness that gave rise to a plethora of torture methods. There were many grounds for torture during the Middle Ages -- religious fervor and criminal punishment come to mind -- but why would a person take the time to invent a device designed to maim?

In his 1975 b­ook "A History of Torture in England," L.A. Parry attempted to explain this bizarre phenomenon:

­". What strikes us most in considering the mediaeval tortures, is not so much their diabolical barbarity … as the extraordinary variety, and what may be termed the artistic skill, they displayed. They represent a condition of thought in which men had pondered long and carefully on all the forms of suffering, had compared and combined the different kinds of torture, till they had become the most consummate masters of their art, had expended on the subject all the resources of the utmost ingenuity, and had pursued it with the ardour of a passion."

In this article, we will explore a collection of the most heinous torture devices ever invented. We begin on the next page.

­The Brazen Bull was a hollow brass statue crafted to resemble a real bull. Victims we­re placed inside, usually with their tongues cut out first. The door was shut, sealing them in. Fires would then be lit around the bull. As the victim succumbed to the searing heat inside, he would thrash about and scream in agony. The movements and sounds, muted by the bull's mass, made the apparatus appear alive, the sounds inside like those of a real bull. This effect created additional amusement for the audience, and served the added benefit of distancing them from the brutality of the torture, since they couldn't directly see the victim.

Legend has it that this device was invented by a Greek named Perillus (Perilaus in some sources) for a tyrant named Phalaris of Agrigentum. Expecting a handsome reward for his creativity, Perillus instead became the first person placed inside the Brazen Bull. By some reports, Phalaris himself became an eventual victim of the bull when his subjects grew tired of his mistreatment [source: Gallonio].

Some courts used torture to determine if someone accused of a crime was truly guilty. This torture would take strange forms: Someone's arm would be forced into boiling water, and the verdict would be based on how well the arm healed days later. Other courts simply tortured people to get them to confess to the crime. The courts themselves even recognized, in their twisted way, that a confession given under torture held no legal meaning. Such a confession had to be confirmed by the victims while not being tortured within 24 hours. If they refused, however, they were simply tortured until they confessed again [source: Innes].

­Thumbscrews represent a very insid­ious form of torture. You weren't likely to die from their use, but they created unendurable agony. The device consisted of three upright metal bars, between which the thumbs were placed. A wooden bar slid down along the metal bars, pressing the thumbs against the bottom. A screw pressed the wood bar downward, crushing the thumbs painfully. The thumbscrews were an elaboration of an earlier device known as the pilliwinks, which could crush all 10 fingers and resembled a nutcracker [source: Parry].

Thumbscrews supposedly originated with the Russian army as a punishment for misbehaving soldiers. A Scottish man brought a set home with him and introduced them to the United Kingdom [Kellaway and Parry].

Up next, a very old and very familiar medieval torture device, plus some variations on a theme.

Torture was often included as part of a judicial sentence against a criminal. Authorities responded to increases in crime rates by enacting excruciating tortures upon convicted criminals, usually in a very public manner. The horrifying nature of the punishment was meant to deter other criminals. While the most serious offenses (high treason, mass murder) resulted in severe torture, children were sometimes hanged for stealing food, so not everyone who visited the torturer's chamber was a hardened criminal.

The rack was used throughout Eu­rope for centuries. It came in many forms, but here's the basic idea: The victim is tied down while some mechanical device, usually a crank or turning wheel, tightens the ropes, stretching the victim's body until the joints are dislocated. Continued pressure could cause the limbs to be torn right off. Such torture was known as being "broken on the rack," "racked," or "stretched on the rack." It could be combined with other forms of torture to make things even more painful. In one story, a Christian youth was tied to a wheel and his joints destroyed by the stretching. A fire was lit beneath the wheel, adding to the torture. Eventually, the fire was extinguished by the downpour of blood as the victim's limbs were torn free [source: Gallonio].

One type of rack was known as the Horse. It was a wooden device that vaguely resembled an actual horse in shape. The victim was tied to a beam on the top (the horse's "back"), facing up. Pulleys below tightened ropes affixed to the victim's hands and feet. He or she was stretched until his or her joints dislocated, then left there or slackened and allowed to hang underneath the horse while an inquisitor or judge questioned the victim and tried to get a confession [source: Gallonio]. Torquemada, the infamous torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, was known to favor a stretching rack known as a potoro [source: Goldberg & Itzkowitz].

Wheels were adapted to many torturous u­ses. They could be part of a stretching rack, but medieval torturers were far too creative to leave it at that. Early torturers were fond of tying someone to a large wooden wheel, then pushing it down a rocky hillside. A more elaborate method involved a wheel mounted to an A-frame that allowed it to swing freely. The victim would be tied to the wheel, and then swung across some undesirable thing below -- fire was always a good choice, but dragging the victim's flesh across metal spikes also worked well. The wheel itself could also have spikes mounted on it, so the pain came from all directions. Instead of swinging, the wheel might turn on an axle. The difference was likely immaterial to the victims.

One of the most horrible wheel tortures was akin to crucifixion. The victim would have the bones in all four limbs broken in two places by strikes from an iron bar. Then, the shattered limbs were threaded through the spokes of a large wheel. Finally, the wheel would be attached to the top of a tall wooden pole and left out in the sun for days. The victim might be alive for hours, enduring the agony of his or her mangled arms and legs and the relentless sun, not to mention the attentions of crows [source: Hunt].

Next, we'll learn about two torture methods that were still used even after the Middle Ages had ended.

Bein­g burned at the stake was usually the last stop for torture victims, because this form of torture was invariably fatal. Conceptually, it's a very simple process -- create a pile of dry wood with a stake at the center to tie the victim to, and then light it. The fire does all the work. It usually took about a half an hour before the victim lost consciousness, but if it was windy and the fire was blowing away from the victim, he or she might have to endure up to two hours of being slowly burned to death [source: Bachrach]. Since the victims had usually been previously tortured with the rack or some other method, the pain must have been unimaginable. Despite the horror of simply being burned at the stake, the torturers of the Inquisition in the Netherlands developed a particularly cruel twist: Prior to being tied to the stake, the victim's tongue would be sandwiched between two hot iron plates. The scorched and swollen tongue would only allow strange, muffled screams of pain once the burning began, which supposedly added a great deal to the audience's entertainment.

The cruel irony of the Inquisition's practice of burning people at the stake was that it happened whether you confessed or not. Once accused of heresy, you would almost certainly be consumed by fire. However, if you confessed, you would be strangled to death before the fire was lit, supposedly sparing you the agony. This practice didn't die out at the end of the Middle Ages, however. Both women and men accused of witchcraft were burned at the stake in England, France and other locales well into the 17th century.

The pillory remained in use even later than the stake. A pillory is a­ set of two parallel wooden boards clasped together, with holes for the neck and wrists. When opened, the victim places his or her head and arms through the holes. Then the pillory is closed, and the victim can't possibly escape.

The pillory itself does no harm to the victim, though it's certainly not comfortable. The entire apparatus was usually placed on a stage in a public place -- the entire point was to humiliate and shame the victim for his or her crimes. The crowd would throw objects at the victim, such as rotten vegetables, dead animals or feces. Stones and other blunt objects were thrown as well, which could result in painful injuries or death.

While a spell in the pillory often only lasted an hour or two, usually during the busiest times of day, its effect really depended on the nature of the crime and the mood of the crowd. Four English men who had falsely accused others of crimes to get the reward (sending innocents to the hangman's noose) were beaten to death by the crowd. Others who won the crowd's favor by refusing to pay unjust taxes or mocking government officials were showered with flowers or rescued from the pillory outright [source: Kellaway]. For lesser crimes, the victim might instead be placed in stocks, leg irons that restrained the ankles. While the goal of public humiliation was the same, the stocks allowed victims to protect themselves from thrown objects.

Sometimes, the vengeful crowd was the least of the victim's concerns. The pillory could be accompanied by other punishments, such as flogging or mutilation. British authorities favored branding the face with a mark of shame, such cutting off one or both ears, or slicing the nose lengthwise [sources: Farrington and Parry].

The next section features one of the most infamous torture devices of all time, plus its lesser known cousin.

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