Inanna and the Warka Vase

Left: Female Head (Inanna?), Uruk or modern Warka, Iraq. 3200-3000 BCE
Right: Presentation of offerings to Inanna (Warka Vase), Also Uruk/Warka, Iraq. 3200-3000 BCE

As an example of their devotion to Inanna (aka Ishtar), I’ve included the two images above. On the left, we have a marble sculpture of a face, possibly Inanna or a preistess, that would have likely been attached to a wooden carved body. The head was entirely carved out of stone by human hands and was found in the sacred temple area of the goddess Inanna. The eyes and brow would have been filled with colored shells or stones and a wig, possibly made of gold leaf, was likely attached by the very prominent “part” in her head. She would have been vibrant, to say the least.

On the right is the Warka Vase. It tells a story and, because of this, is “narrative art.” It depicts a festival held in Inanna’s honor. It is divided into three sections, registers or friezes, to make the storytelling easier. On the lowest frieze, you see sheep, rams, barley and flax depicted. This is representative of a year of abundance. Inanna has blessed them with good crops and large herds. The animals are in profile, as they have been portrayed for thousands of years, but they are given a “ground line” to stand on. This is something new to art.Subjects are no longer placed haphazardly around a scene; there is order here.

The second frieze from the bottom shows men carrying baskets overflowing with the bounties bestowed upon them. They will present these to the goddess as a “votive offering.” They present the gifts as a gesture of gratitude, usually in response to the fulfillment of a vow they’ve made to the gods. Like the composite views of men from earlier art, the legs are shown in profile, the torso is shown from a frontal view and the head is shown, again, in profile. The bodies also do not overlap.

In the very top frieze, there is a tall woman wearing a horned helmet. It’s not known whether this is Inanna herself or a priestess, but they are clearly important as they are much taller than any other figure on the vase. The offerings are shown in animal shaped vessels placed all over the interior of the shrine.

My thoughts on these two pieces? The head looks a little rough now, but she is at least 5000 years old, so she really looks good for her age. She must have been beautiful back when she was created. Golden hair (because blondes have more fun, I suppose) and sparkling, colorful brows and eyes. Her body, which was probably made of wood, I’m sure was also adorned quite beautifully.

The vase is pretty interesting if just for the friezes. The Greeks (and other civilizations) would use friezes in various artworks. It was also the forerunner to the comic book! Can you imagine a world without the comic book? (You can? So can I, but we wouldn’t have had those fun Lichtenstein paintings without pop culture and comic books!)

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