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Ištar's Finery

Queen Pu-abi, in all her regalia: Her jewelry weighed 14 pounds. This is a recent reconstruction (2009) of the queen's finery, done by the UPenn Museum.

Queen Pu-abi's beaded cape, belt, and jewelry. The circle on the lower left is her garter; on the lower right is her wrist cuff (bracelet).

Details of the diadem. These were originally labeled as "stalks of grain", but were later identified as apples (center) and the male and female flowers of the date palm; all of which are believed to be symbols of fertility.


“Ok, now for the dress,” Tifani announced, as she looked up, and pointed to a dark, deep blue… something, possibly a dress? Two ladies brought over a solid dark blue Egyptian kalasiris in a two-layer format. The deep dark blue, almost black purple dress was the foundation layer, looking and feeling like shiny, smooth silk, and displaying many four-inch long tassels hanging from the bottom fringe. Just as soon as this was tugged and pulled and fitted here and there just perfectly, Tifani nodded her head, and the second servant helped bring another gown down around Katie’s head. This outside layer was magically heavenly; its linen ever so slightly tinted a pale blue, creating a divine, diaphanous covering that covered her dark blue dress from neck to toe.

“Now hold yours hands out,” Tifani directed the movie star. The diaphanous gown, held at Katie’s wrist by a heavy thickening of braided gold, opened up like a velociraptor, which hadn’t been discovered yet.

“Turn around, please.”

The velociraptor did, slowly. “I feel like a peacock,” Katie complained, remembering that peacocks were discovered by then.

“I like that look,” Tifani decided, nodding her head. She paused, thought briefly, and then continued to nod her head, more so now.

And then it was time for the jewelry. The treasures of the kingdom were brought out for Tifani’s closest scrutiny because only the very best objects were to be destined for display on the Mitanni Christmas Tree this happy day. She looked at Katie, who seemed to be leaning forward, about to get up. “Ištar, please! Sit down,” Tifani stopped her.

“And this piece came from King Tušratta just yesterday,” she said, wrapping a bracelet of semiprecious stone onto her wrist. Katie held it up to check out the charms. “What is the importance of these charms, Tifani?” she asked.

Tifani looked at her briefly with a surprised look. “Why, they are symbols of your fertile aspect, Ištar. They are symbols of fertility. Look closely, this first one, with the cluster of three balls. Do you see them on top of the leaves? That is an apple branch bearing fruit, the other two are also symbols of fruit. This one here, see those?”

“What, are these things feathers, pointing down?”

“No, this is the male flower of the date palm, and this one is the female flower,” she finished, pointing to the third golden charm, which looked like a hand with branching fingers, with pods of seeds developing along the open fingers.

Now Katie was wondering what the gifting of the charms from Tušratta meant. Right away the paranoids jumped in with their worries. He wants to get naked with you, that’s what they mean! The loudest immediately screamed. “Tifani, did Rabea talk to you about things, umm, after the ceremony, you know… besides Cedat and Elham?”

“Oh heavens, no, Ištar. She constantly worried about those two so much, always, gosh… and then she wouldn’t stop talking, she was so excited.”

“But did she say anything about having sex tonight?”

“Ištar, that’s why they’re getting married, and will be waiting for your blessing. I know that this type of thing has never happened before, we, they, everyone is so blessed,” she babbled on. “Oh, here, let’s finish. Now sit still, shhh…” Tifani said as she turned a hand to her side, which was instantly filled with a pale blue gauzy veil. She placed the veil over Ištar’s head, and turned around to pick up a golden crown. The stunning finale for Ištar’s dress up was to wear divine headgear. It looks heavy, and shiny, and stupid. Oh, and trampy, whorish even… she thought very briefly, as Tifani and a helper plopped a big and awkward golden crown onto her head. Katie couldn’t see what she looked like, glass and mirrors were centuries away, but when she put both of her hands to the side of her head she felt like she had a helmet on her head. She felt around, and tapped it, touched it. It wasn’t solid, seeming to be a bit more advanced than the clumsy rock one that Wilma Flintstone had on her head when she went to the Bedrock Hairdresser. And more expensive, for this heavy yet airy helmet of hammered strips of gold had sixty golden flakes, sixty hammered leaves of gold attached to its horizontal struts, where they floated freely and coyly under the metal headband. And under this double row of golden leaves were a bunch of gold rings dangling at the end of gold wires attached to the headband, dancing right above her eyes, framing her face. Yes, definitely seductive… No, whorish.

“Take this off, let me look at this closer,” she decided she needed to see exactly if this was as tasteless and gaudy as her hands were warning her. The two women took it off and showed it t her. Oh gawd… it was.

There! At the top of the helmet were golden flowers, one, two, three, seven… there were seven flowers growing from the top of this helmet, flower stalks and all. But they weren’t real, they were precious metal flowers with petals and stalks made of gold. Wait, the flowers weren’t flowers after all, they were metal stars, gold, seven of them, seven, eight-pointed stars floating, or rather bouncing around on their stalks a stupid six inches in the air. But that arrangement didn’t look very artsy or divine to Katie. It appears rather idiotic looking, she observed, comparing it to a weird type of spaceship antenna.

Tifani allowed her to look at it for a moment, and then placed it carefully on Ištar’s head again. Now, finally… Tifani was done. “Finished,” she said, as she grabbed Ištar’s hands and pulled her up from her chair. “You look great! Fit for a King!” Tifani gave her a big hug, she was so happy with the dress up.

“About that King thing, Tifani. Have you heard if King Tušratta expects a type of consummation after this wedding?”

Katie sat down, giving up, ready for more decorations. Tifani brought out her painter’s palette, really a combination grocery basket and mortar and pestle. Carefully, ever so carefully because it was so expensive, she dropped a few small rocks of lapis lazuli carefully into the mortar, a carved out stone bowl, and proceeded to crush it into a fine blue powder with a stone smasher, the pestle. Tifani wanted her Navajo maiden to be the Blue Girl, for blue was the color of royalty. She slowly added honey to put the stuff into a sticky consistency that could be painted on Katie’s eyelids. Yes, she could have dumbed down the sheer brilliant blueness of the ground lapis lazuli by adding some white ash, but blueness shouts royalty, and so Tifani opted for the garishly obscene, call-girl shade of blue eye shadow for Katie, which was typical of kings and queens back then.

Tifani set her palette down and looked approvingly at her work, nodding, smiling, and humming the entire time. She placed her hands on either side of Katie’s face, turned her head gently to the right then the left, and nodded again, still smiling and humming.

But Tifani wasn’t finished with the dress options. “Ok,” she said to another servant, one in the background, who brought a third layer of the kalasiris to the fashion designer. When Tifani nodded a shorter shoulder shawl was placed over the goddess. It was made of the same diaphanous material and had the same color as the longer outside layer. The sleeves billowed out at her elbows. Tifani took a few steps back, cupped her chin in her hand, and thought… “Hold up your arms, please, Ištar… Ok,” she said, “Now try the other.” The short shawl was pulled above Ištar’s head and a bigger, longer one was pushed down over her head. Two fitters tugged the hem of the newest outer fabric until all the wrinkles fell out, then stood up and fished inside the gaping sides of the gown. Each found a hand, bringing them outside through a thick wristband that snuggled the long shawl to her wrists. Now everyone stood back and waited.

“I was just checking the jewelry. There’s a lot there, you know? I didn’t know Tušratta had so much stuff here.”

“No this is now yours, Ištar. Moudad was saving it for you. Now it is yours. Plus more comes in every day since you have arrived.” Tifani grabbed Katie’s left hand and placed rings of gold on each of her eight fingers. “I think I’m going to go for a fall color motif, Ištar. Hmm… mostly gold and carnelian… Here, try these,” she began, as she lifted two gold earrings of a crescent moon having a soft dull gold finish. “Good, these will do nicely, they go well with autumn colors.” She attached each to Katie’s ears. “Um hmm,” she decided, as she perused more goodies from the treasure chest. Keeping to her autumn theme, she pulled out a heavy choker collar with a thick gold cord. The cord had to be thick, and strong; eighteen strings of polished precious and semiprecious stones, mostly brown, carnelian, or chalcedony agate, but also red and green jasper, red and black onyx, and some blue lapis hung in six-inch lengths from this thick gold chain. There were five larger stones and six smaller ones set along each dropping string, their shapes alternated along every string, first a round bead, then a long tapered cylinder, and then another bead. Tifani was right, the stones’ color arrangement, displaying mostly brown and red shades did confer an overall autumn festive feel. Tifani grabbed the heavy ornament, holding an end in each hand, hefted it off the table, walked behind Katie, and plopped it onto her chest like a bib. She jiggled it back and forth to seat it around her neck just so, and then pulled the necklace together by hooking one end into the other.

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