White calcite (marble) cylinder seal

From Mesopotamia
Late Uruk / Early Jemdet Nasr period, about 3200-3000 BC

An extensive trade route between eastern Mesopotamia and Syria and Egypt

This seal shows animals and pots in front of a shrine or temple. It is perhaps a ritual scene. Monumental buildings dating to the late fourth millennium and decorated with niches and buttresses have been excavated in southern Mesopotamia, especially at Uruk, and are found at a number of sites further north along the River Euphrates. The poles with rings were probably the symbol of a god or goddess but which one is unknown.

The seal is typical of a style using filed lines and drill-holes, found in the Diyala, north-east of Baghdad, but also in Syria. Seals like this are evidence of a trade network between the two regions.

The earliest cylinder seals were rolled over hollow clay balls containing tokens; later they were impressed on clay tags and tablets marked with tally signs. A variety of early scenes carved on the seals show economic activities, food production, processions or ritual acts. These may reflect different 'departments' within the central authority.

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More information


D. Collon, First impressions: cylinder se (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)

D.J. Wiseman, Catalogue of the Western Asiat (London, 1962)


Height: 4.400 cm
Diameter: 3.900 cm

Museum number

ME 102416



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