History of the Byzantine empire, £8.99
Height: 30.000 mm
Diameter: 15.000 mm
Room 54: Anatolia and Urartu
Serpentinite stamp-cylinder seal with monsters and animal heads
Urartian, 8th century BC
Hybrid monsters - a typical Urartian product
The Uratians adopted the cuneiform script for their royal inscriptions and at the same time adapted the cylinder seal for administrative purposes. They used stamp-cylinders, with a small handle at the top and an engraved sealing surface on the bottom as well as around the sides. Those found in Urartu differ from those used elsewhere: the cylinder flares out towards the bottom and is often concave-sided so that it looks like a bell.
The motifs depicted on this example are typical of an Urartian seal. It is carved with winged, scorpion-tailed, two-legged monsters, with the heads of a lion, a bird and different kinds of horned animals.
Urartu, centred on Lake Van (in modern Turkey), was the northern neighbour and rival of the Assyrian Empire during the ninth to the seventh centuries BC. However, it had disappeared before 600 BC, possibly destroyed by raids of horse-borne warriors, known to the Greeks as Scythians, associated with the Medes from western Iran. The name survives, however, in that of its highest mountain, Ararat.
D. Frankel, The ancient kingdom of Urartu (London, The British Museum Press, 1979)
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
D. Collon, First impressions: cylinder se (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)