Ancient gold drinking

26 April, 2012

Gold spouted cup from the Royal Tomb of Queen Puabi of Ur, c.2500 BC
Gold spouted cup from the Royal Tomb of Queen Puabi of Ur, c.2500 BC
Source: by permission of the Trustees of The British Museum

For the first time in Australia, a 4,500 year-old gold drinking cup discovered in the death pit of an ancient queen was unveiled at Melbourne Museum today in the lead up to the international exhibition The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia.

"This exquisite gold cup is one of the most ornate objects found in the royal graves of Ur," said Ms Sarah Collins, Curator, Early Mesopotamia, the British Museum.

"It is beautiful, unique and can tell us so much about the wealth, craftsmanship and ritual of this early civilisation."

"The long spout would have been used like a drinking straw, probably for drinking beer, and the gold would have been imported from Iran or Turkey," added Ms Collins.

The cup was found in the grave of Queen Puabi during one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of last century. The discovery of the 'Royal Cemetery' of Ur, in modern day Iraq, led by British archaeologist Leonard Woolley from 1922 to 1934 revealed a wealth of precious and significant artefacts and evidence of human sacrifice.

In The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia, Melbourne Museum presents a magnificent exhibition exploring an era of extraordinary invention and innovation, the impact of which is still shaping our lives thousands of years later.

"The story of Mesopotamia is central to the story of human development and how we live our modern lives – from the invention of writing, to the measurement of time itself," said Dr Patrick Greene, CEO, Museum Victoria.

Major archaeological discoveries were made in the cities of Mesopotamia from the mid-19th century and into the 20th century. "The excavation of the ancient cities of Ur, Nineveh and Nimrud were rivalled in significance only by the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb," said Dr Greene.

"We are delighted to be collaborating with the British Museum to bring this extraordinary exhibition to Australia."

Visitors to The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia will see more than 170 artefacts, revealing many aspects of Mesopotamian culture.

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia focuses on three of the great centres of ancient civilisation – Sumer, Assyria and Babylon – bringing their rich history to life through objects and multimedia. Themes in the exhibition include palaces and royal power, religious beliefs and rituals, burial practices and royal tombs, and the myths and legends that surround ancient Mesopotamia.

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia is presented in collaboration with the British Museum. Tickets are on sale now. Adults $24, concession $16, children $14, school groups, $10 per student (all tickets include entry to Melbourne Museum).

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia will show at Melbourne Museum from 4 May until 7 October 2012.

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