Length: 2.000 cm
Width: 2.100 cm
Gift of Professor John Ruskin
GR 1872.3-15.1 (Gems 46)
Room 12a: Greece Minoans
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.
R.A. Higgins, Minoan and Mycenean art, new revised edition (London, Thames & Hudson, 1997)