Uruk Cylinder Seal of Sacred Bulls and Religious Byres
An extremely fine Uruk hardstone, possibly diorite, cylinder seal featuring a horizontally engraved religious scene, divided into two registers. On the top register, naturalistically portrayed sacred bulls are walking to the right, alternating with the top parts of the religious byres. Six cuneiform characters, engraved vertically and framed by a rectangular border, are arranged within the empty space between two standing bulls, probably reading as ‘Inanna, nin…du-munan’. On the lower register, two dome-shaped byres are presented with a recumbent and a standing bull. Neatly carved geometric incisions demonstrate the detailed architecture of the byres, attesting to the representations of religious byres that appear on the Uruk cylinder seal. The top parts of the byres are presented as long, thin branches, with multiple globular shapes of various sizes protruding from the sides. This can either be interpreted as a religious symbol, similar to the goddess Inanna’s bundle, or can be regarded as a date tree suggesting fertility within late Uruk pictorial traditions. The bulls are all engraved in a typical Uruk naturalistic manner, featuring smooth, elegant body contours and strong muscular physiques.
Date: Circa 3200-3000 BC Provenance: From the collection of a deceased gentleman, by descent to the family, pre 1988; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.11013-181787. Condition: Very fine condition. This seal comes with a museum-quality modern impression.
Despite being at the earliest stage of the development of Mesopotamian glyptic arts, the Uruk cylinder seals have been given much credit for their unparalleled sophistication of both the engraving skills and presented images. Cylinder seals, bearing meticulously carved religious scenes, were mainly dedicated towards deities within early Mesopotamian kingship and religious realms. This explains the strong naturalistic style that Uruk cylinder seals present. On Uruk cylinder seals, priests, greenery, and ruminants in a heraldic group express strong religious ties associated with the fertility god Dumuzid. The god was worshipped as a significant male deity, who possessed protective power over herds and plants, representing fertility and resurrection within the traditional Mesopotamian religion. He was considered the consort of the goddess Ishtar and together, their cult was worshipped until the 11th century AD.
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