The Freud Museum

Cylinder Seal

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4242, Cylinder Seal, Early Dynasty III; c. 2500 B.C.

Artist: Photographer: Ardon Bar Hama
Culture: Mesopotamian; Sumerian
Material: Stone
Dimensions: 1 1/8 x in. / 3 x 1.4 cm

Cylinder seals were developed in southern Mesopotamia as a more efficient successor to stamp seals. Such seals were used to mark ownership and authorize documents. They often have a hole drilled through the centre so that they could be hung from a cord around the neck, making them both utilitarian and decorative.

This seal is made up of two registers. The upper portion depicts a man protecting his herd from predation, a duty that fell to the leader of a community. The lower register is most likely a scene of an agricultural ceremony. Two longer haired female figures, presumably priestesses, oversee three smaller figures who carry sacks of grain. As farming was main source of subsistence, scenes of animal husbandry and agrarian festivals were popular subjects in Near Eastern art of this period.

See this object on our Collections site here 

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