Mesopotamian Shell Cylinder Seal


An incised, Mesopotamian, shell cylinder seal. Some indication that zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures might have been depicted. Due to wear consistent with age, much of the carvings is now smooth. The seal is pierced longitudinally for suspension, allowing it to be worn by its owner in antiquity. A professionally baked modern impression is included with the piece.

Date: Circa 3rd – 2nd Millennium BC
Provenance: From a Cotswold, UK, collection. The entire collection was seen and some entries catalogued (not this one) by the late Professor Wilfrid George Lambert pre 1990. The late W.G. Lambert was Professor of Assyriology at the University of Birmingham in the period 1970-1993.
Condition: Good condition. Signs of wear consistent with age.

In stock

SKU: XJ-18 Category: Tags: ,

The cylinder seal is an ancient Mesopotamian equivalent of a signature, rolled on a variety of objects made of clay to leave an impression. For instance, seal impressions on cuneiform tablets could identify the writer of the documents. Impressions could also be left on sealings to proclaim ownership their owner and deter theft. Seals were also believed to have protective properties and are often perforated through the middle to be worn as jewellery or pinned on garments. The images carved onto seals often depict ideas and beliefs fundamental to ancient Mesopotamian culture. Many cylinder seals have survived to modern times due to the durability of the materials use – stone, metal and fired clay. Unlike most ancient artifacts, cylinder seals appear almost exactly as they would have looked to the ancient people who used them.

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

Weight 13.4 g
Dimensions W 1.5 x H 2.9 cm



Reference: For a similar item, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, item 41.160.287

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