Concisely written and plainly stated, Naomi Miller proposes a new interpretation for one specific type of ornament, gold twisted wire pendants, from what was known as PuAbi’s diadem from the Royal Cemetery of Ur in Iraq, which is about 4,500 years old.
Miller, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, argues that the pendants “literally represent rope, symbolically reference sheep, and narratively evoke the flocks of the shepherd Dumuzi” (Miller 2013:129). Dumuzi is, among other things, a god of fertility and the husband of the goddess Inanna. More specifically, “the wire pendants depict the rope that tethers sheep as they are milked” (Miller 2013:131). The arrangement of the loops in the pendant also evokes the appearance of a flock of sheep as they are tied together to be milked.
Other, less abstract representations in PuAbi’s diadem include date palm, apples, and animals. Miller reviews other potential interpretations of the pendants, of which the most convincing is that they represent a date palm tree, although she argues that the lack of a central stalk in the pendants makes it unlikely they represent a tree.
Miller, Naomi F., 2013 Symbols of Fertility and Abundance in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, Iraq. American Journal of Archaeology 117:127-133.
The original article is open access and can be read here: http://www.ajaonline.org/note/1497
The author, Dr. Naomi Miller, has also been responding to comments at this site.
For more on the Royal Cemetery of Ur, see: http://www.penn.museum/sites/iraq/?page_id=26