Early Dynastic Black Stone Cylinder Seal of Contest Scene


A finely engraved Early Dynastic black stone cylinder seal, depicting an iconic contesting scene in a typical Early Dynastic glyptic practice. On one side, a standing nude hero is flanked by two rampant, horned rams, which are further bordered and being attacked by a roaring lion and feline. To the other side, a nude hero is confronting a bull-man. In between the two paired scenes, which are arranged in a symmetrical composition characteristic of the Early Dynastic period, a minor, kilted male figure holding a dagger is seen. The strong, muscular physiques and anatomical details of the nude heroes and the beasts are clearly engraved in an extremely naturalistic manner, with their facial features and attires attesting to the distinctive Early Dynastic style. This cylinder seal has been vertically perforated.

Date: Circa 2900-2350 BC
Provenance: From the collection of a deceased gentleman pre1988, by descent to the extended family in Geneva to London.
Condition: Excellent condition. Impression not included.


SKU: HL-308 Category: Tags: ,

Mesopotamia has been regarded as the cradle of ancient glyphic arts with the earliest cylinder seal proven to be first executed in Bronze Age Mesopotamia. The earliest cylinder seals can be dated as early as the fourth millennium BC. Since the fashion of engraving naturalistic images on precious and semi-precious stones began (Circa 3500 BC), each historical period contributed different significant aesthetic styles and technical developments to revive Mesopotamian glyptic arts. Iconographies and religious scenes, seen on Early Dynastic seals, are renowned for the elaborate contest scenes, that usually portray nude heroes confronting bull-men or rampant, roaring lions.


Weight 8.6 g
Dimensions W 2.2 x H 3.2 cm



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