Sign and image: Representations of plants on the Warka Vase of early Mesopotamia

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Published in Origini n. XXXIX/2016. Rivista annuale del Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichità – “Sapienza” Università di Roma | Preistoria e protostoria delle civiltà antiche – Prehistory and protohistory of ancient civilizations | The Warka Vase is an iconic artifact of Mesopotamia. In the absence of rigorous botanical study, the plants depicted on the lowest register are usually thought to be flax and grain. This analysis of the image identified as grain argues that its botanical characteristics, iconographical context and similarity to an archaic sign found in proto-writing demonstrates that it should be identified as a date palm sapling. It confirms the identification of flax. The correct identification of the plants furthers our understanding of possible symbolic continuities spanning the centuries that saw the codification of text as a representation of natural language.

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