Height: 5.350 cm
Diameter: 3.350 cm
Acquired by 1867
Room 56: Mesopotamia
Calcite (limestone) cylinder seal
Third Dynasty of Ur, about 2050 BC
'May I live by the benevolent wisdom of my master!'
Seals, like this one, were not just made to act as a mark of authority when rolled across the damp clay of a cuneiform tablet. They could also be dedicated in temples to receive the blessings of a god. The figures depicted on this seal are a goddess with both her hands raised, probably lamma. She introduces a worshipper, either the owner of the seal, or more probably, King Shulgi, to the god Meslamta-ea who holds an axe and a multiple mace. Before him is a date-palm altar.
The cuneiform inscription translates 'For the god Meslamta-ea, the king, true might of Lagash; for the life of Shulgi, the strong man, the king of Ur: Kilula, the chair-bearer, son of Ur-Bagara, has made [this seal]'.
Dedicated objects, like the temples where they were deposited, were usually given their own personal names. According to the inscription this seal is called: 'May I live by the benevolent wisdom of my master!'
Shulgi (2094-2047 BC) was the second ruler of the Third Dynasty of Ur. The origins of the dynasty are obscure, but the founder, Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 BC), established control over southern Mesopotamia, including the state of Lagash. This empire was consolidated under Shulgi and his influence stretched east into Iran. These achievements collapsed, however, less than fifty years after Shulgi’s death with incursions of Amorite tribes and an Elamite invasion from the east.
D. Collon, Catalogue of the Western Asi-1 (London, 1982)