Mesopotamian Carnelian Cylinder Seal


A finely engraved Mesopotamian carnelian cylinder seal engraved with a stylised zoomorphic animal facing a figure. To the left is a horned zoomorphic figure, possibly an ibex, standing under a tree with its head raised. In front of the animal is a human figure, depicted kneeling with his head lowered and hand raised towards the ibex. The seal is perforated longitudinally for suspension. This piece comes with a professionally baked, modern impression.

Date: Circa 2nd-1st Millennium BC
Provenance: From an important collection, London,1970-1990.
Condition: Fine condition. Hairline crack to the top.


SKU: CY-113 Category: Tags: ,

Mesopotamia was the cradle for glyptic arts. Cylinder seals, featuring zoomorphic-decorated knobs and finely engraved religious scenes, first appeared in the Uruk period (ca 3500-3000 BC). Images seen on the Old Babylonian cylinder seals bear great resemblances to the earlier prototypes of the preceding dynasties. Deities, humans, animals, plants, geometric shapes and religious iconography have all appeared on seals. Cylinder seals were used to roll authenticating seals to officiate or notarise a document, usually on wet clay. Seals were hugely important in the ancient world for administration and commerce, they allowed for official legal transactions and the establishment of efficient bureaucracy. While they were important official objects, they were also worn as jewellery and amulets, thought to be in part as a way to have the seal constantly conveniently available to its owner. Carnelian was a common material for cylinder seals, along with obsidian, steatite, lapis lazuli, amethyst, and haematite.

To find out more about cylinder seals, please see our relevant blog post: Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals—Exploring Glyptic Images.

Weight 3.3 g
Dimensions W 0.8 x H 1.6 cm


Semi-Precious Stones

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