A fine Sumerian Marble Monkey Amulet, Uruk/Jemdet Nasr Period, ca. 3300 - 2900 BCE
MA2107Regular price $2,750 USD
In ancient Sumerian texts, it was thought monkeys were able to repel demons and evil spirits. However, this rare seated monkey amulet, in itself a remarkable work of miniature sculpture, and shown seated with its elbows resting on drawn knees, might also depict a favorite pet. Monkeys have a long and respectable history in ancient times. They were pets in Egypt and in the Near East from early times, and the idea of animals acting like humans can also be found in Mesopotamian art. We have the delightful Sumerian letter written by a monkey to his mother, 'Ludiludi' (a pure nonsense name), in which he complains scornfully, like any schoolboy at a boarding school, of the miserable food given at Ur. This text was evidently given as a model for young scribes to copy by way of light relief from harder tasks. Whether this charming amulet was worn to ward off evil or was a reminder of a favorite pet, we will probably never know, but the enlarged drill hole caused by constant wear suggests it was an item often worn and presumably cherished over 5000 years ago.
Reference: On the Sumerian scribal schooling, see C. J. Gadd, Teachers and Students in the Oldest Schools, Inaugural Lecture, 6 March 1956 (School of Oriental and African Studies, London, 1956). Barnett, R.D., ‘Monkey Business’, JANES, 5 (1973) 1–10.
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall.
Dimensions: Height: 1 1/8 inches (2.9 cm)
Provenance: Private UK collection, acquired in 1977, thereafter private NYC collection, acquired from the English trade in 2011.