Frieze from an altar


This frieze assembled from different materials is an example of early interior decoration. Originally it decorated the upper part of an altar in a temple. The individual pieces were once mounted on a wooden backing, of which nothing remained when it was excavated. The edges at the top and bottom formed a molding which was covered with gold foil nailed into place with gold-headed silver nails. The different-colored stone bands were put together from rectangular strips that had perforations at the back so that a thin copper wire could be threaded through them and attached to the wooden backing.

The frieze was not only a decorative ornament; it depicted a type of façade common on temples and public buildings at the time. Placed directly below the roof, such facades often had a row of mosaic made from clay strips interspersed with black-painted heads. Under the mosaic the wall had receding niches. The green slate in our example only partly succeeds in creating the illusion of niches. The use of different-colored materials for an object was popular in the ancient Near East, especially in ancient Sumer and Elam (southern Iraq and southwestern Iran).

  • Site: Tell Brak, in the last Eye Temple

  • Date: 3500-3300 B.C.

  • Material: Gold, silver, copper, bituminous limestone, white marble, green slate

  • Item Dimensions: Height: 12.3 cm; length: 1.25 m

  • Archaeological Mission:

  • Museum No.: Aleppo G. 564 – National Museum Of Aleppo (2011) – 

  • Index Code: Alp 0207/35LOB

Excavation Site Location

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  • Literature: M. E. L. Mallowan Iraq 9 (1947) 93, Plates III, IV, L

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