Museum Treasure: The gold helmet

Helmets, chain mail, daggers, guns, arms, ammunition and other macho stuff are not really my kind of thing and it is this section in a museum that I breeze through or prefer to give a miss. So that day at the British Museum in London, should actually have seen me ignoring Meskalamdug’s helmet, but for two things—it was made of gold, and it had the cutest ears I had ever seen. 🙂

The gold helmet of Meskalamdug

This helmet, dates back to about 2600-2400 BC and was found in the tomb of Meskalamdug, a Sumerian prince, in the ancient city of Ur (now in present day Iraq). The top of the helmet has a wavy design (probably to mirror hair) and at the back is a little hollow bump, perhaps to accommodate Meskalamdug’s hair bun. And yes, the helmet also has these really cute and life-like ears and ear holes carved on them. Though the helmet is designed to look like a battle helmet, it was reportedly worn by Meskalamdug for only ceremonial purposes. Gold symbolises strength and power, and Prince Meskalamdug had both.

Meskalamdug’s helmet at the British Museum London is an electrotype of the original which is or rather was at Iraq Museum in Baghdad. In the pillaging and sacking of the city that followed the fall of the Saddam Hussein government, the gold helmet was one of the many artefacts looted from the Iraq Museum.

When I saw this artefact in London, the enormity of the fact that the original had been lost, perhaps for ever, did not sink in. It’s only as I write this post that I realise that the electrotype at the British Museum may be the only piece available for the world to view and admire.

A very sobering thought indeed !

The Museum Treasure Series is all about artifacts found in museums with an interesting history and story attached to them. You can read more from this series here.