Banded agate seal-stone

Mycenean, about 1500-1400 BC
From Ialysos (modern Triánda), Rhodes, Aegean Sea

The original appearance of the Lion Gate at Mycenae?

This seal-stone is made of banded agate, an attractive and quite widely available semi-precious stone. The scene carved on its face shows two lions placed heraldically on either side of a sacred pillar, from which their heads are turned away. This arrangement of lions flanking a pillar can be seen, carved on a much grander scale, in the triangular stone block above the main gateway of the citadel of Mycenae.

The heads of the lions that give their name to the 'Lion Gate' at Mycenae are missing, and their original appearance has long been a puzzle to archaeologists. This seal-stone shows one possible solution: the heads may have been turned completely, so that the lions looked away from the pillar. However, the case cannot be proved, and it remains possible that the heads were carved with the lions looking outwards and guarding the approach to the palace.

Find in the collection online

More information

Bibliography

R.A. Higgins, Minoan and Mycenean art, new revised edition (London, Thames & Hudson, 1997)

Dimensions

Length: 2.000 cm
Width: 2.100 cm

Museum number

GR 1872.3-15.1 (Gems 46)

GAA6365

Gift of Professor John Ruskin

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore