Baghdad Museum/Photo by Jean Mazenod, Art of the Ancient Near East, Éditions d’Art, Lucien Mazenod—Paris

The Uruk Vase. Carved from alabaster, this elegant vase dates from the end of the fourth millennium B.C. Standing 41 inches tall, it depicts the rite of sacred marriage, in which the god (identified by Jacobsen as Amaushumgalanna, the god of the date palm) approaches the gate of his bride, Inanna. Amaushumgalanna leads a long procession bearing wedding gifts. The sacred marriage was believed to bring fertility to the land. The upper register shows the meeting between Amaushumgalanna and Inanna. Only the back of Inanna is visible on the far left where she stands in front of the gateway Behind Inanna, above the animals, is the sanctuary of her temple with its altar and sacred furniture, including (far right) two tall vases. Scholars believe that the Uruk Vase may have stood in such a sanctuary.