University Museum, University of Pennsylvania

The front wooden panel of the sound box of the royal lyre from Ur. (The complete lyre is seen in color above.) The art work on the panel is representative of third millennium instrument decoration. The panel, inlaid with gold, lapis lazuli, and shell, is decorated with four scenes. The top scene, a typical ancient Near Eastern heraldic tableau, depicts an unclothed man holding two bearded bulls with human faces. In the next scene, a wolf with a knife in his belt carries a table laden with boar’s head and a sheep’s head and leg. Following the wolf, a lion carries a jar to the feast. In the third scene, a donkey plays a naturalistic bovine-lyre while a bear appears to be clapping and singing. A jackal sits facing the bovine head of the harp. He shakes a rattle and beats a drum in his lap. The bottom scene shows a scorpion-man followed by a goat carrying two vessels. This tableau may be related to passages in the epic of Gilgamesh, a legendary Sumerian king about whom many stories formed a cycle of tales. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the scorpion-man is a guardian at the place where the sun rises.