Lapis lazuli cylinder seal of Sin-ishmeanni

Old Babylonian, about 19th century BC
From Mesopotamia

The design on this lapis lazuli seal is typical of the Old Babylonian period; the owner of the seal is shown being brought into the presence of a king by a goddess known as a lamma. The seated king wears the head-dress of a god. From the end of the third millennium BC until the time of this seal many of the rulers of south Mesopotamia were deified. At all other times it seems that Mesopotamian kings were considered to be appointed by the gods but were not themselves divine.

The inscription identifies the seal owner as Sin-ishmeanni, son of Sin-iddinam, and servant of Sumu-yamutbala. The latter was a ruler in northern Babylonia around 1850 BC.

The small person with bow legs is a common motif on seals of this period. He has variously been interpreted as a dancer in rituals or entertainments, or as a type of demon, perhaps a prankster or a protective spirit. The figure may be related to the Egyptian god Bes, who was worshipped in Syria and other areas of the ancient Near East.

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More information


D. Collon, Catalogue of the Western Asi-2 (London, 1986)


Height: 2.450 cm
Diameter: 1.450 cm

Museum number

ME 134757


Captain E.G. Spencer Churchill Collection


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