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cylinder seal

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Variegated black and white diorite cylinder seal; a bearded figure stands facing right. He wears a striated cap (or is this his hair?), beneath which a bunch of curled locks flareds out on his shoulder. He wears a robe with a fringed hem, over which is a shawl with one fringed edge hanging vertically and curving round at the bottom and one fringed corner thrown over his right shoulder. He has his right hand clenched against his chest and holds a vertical staff , which is curved at the bottom, in his extended left hand. This is seal is carefully executed by the head and left hand are both too large; two small drill-holes mark the wrist, other mark the bottom of the beard, the cheek and the curls of hair. The remainder of the design is taken by a square box containing six vertical lines of inscription. The design is barely visible on the mottled stone; very poorly engraved; worn.


  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 800BC
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 3.4 centimetres
    • Diameter: 1.4 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Transliteration

        sha AMAR.UTU.GAR.MU, A AMAR.UTU-NUMUN-DIN?, sha.BAL.BAL, ia ki?-na?, sha/GAR URU? u-sur-AMAR.UTU, IN-DUB?-DIM?.
      • Inscription Translation

        (Seal) of Marduk-shakin-shumi, son of Marduk-zera-uballit, descendent of Yakin, of / governor of the town of Usur-Marduk.
      • Inscription Comment

        Written in positive on seal. Gives the name of Marduk-shakin-shumi who was probably the ruler of a small state in Babylonia called Bit-Yakin; this is the longest known inscription on a Babylonian personal seal. Lines 5-6: The final vertical wedge of UTU is apparently subsumed in the vertical ruling. T.G Pinches translates the line as "SHA AL SHAPPAT(?)-MARDUK in RA-SHUB (?)" "of the city of Sappat (?)-Maruk, he has dedicated (it)". His transcription into Assyrian characters renders the third (and fourth?) sign of line 5 as the sign now indentified as SHAGAN; the basis for his rendering as sh as Sappat is unclear. Wittmann reads "Sha URU shep?(GIR?) Marduk (AMAR.UTU) / ishruk (IN.RA.RU) but the sign seems clearly not to be GIR and names of the form Shep-DN seem to Old Babylonian, not Neo-Babylonian. Despite the readings of Pinches and Wittmann, the second sign seems not to be URU, since it ends with only a single vertical wedge. If, however, a town name be sought here, Christopher Walker suggests that a preferable reading might be "URU u-sur-AMAR.UTU"; for town names of the from Usur-DN see Walker and Kramer. Overall Finkel and Walker are inclined to doubt that Marduk-shakin-shumi would have troubled to describe himself as an official (?) of an otherwise totally obscure town in Babylonia, and are inclined to guess the last two lines somehow contain two separate official titles. Finkel speculatively hazards a reading of the first two signs of line 5 as "NU.ESH?" (neshakku) on the basis of one of the wedges of "ESH" begining subsumed in the horizontal ruling.
  • Curator's comments

    According to catalogue "Brinkman has suggested that Marduk-shakin-shumi might 'well have been [a] minor Chaldean prince in the days of Babylonian weakness between 811 and 770 BC'. Brinkman has also suggested that he was possibly the father of Eriba-Marduk (c.767-761 BC). Thus the seal would be roughly contemporary with the inscribed seals of 'limmu' officials in Assyria, although the style is very different. It is interesting that Marduk-shakin-shumi is not wearing Babylonian dress, as depicted on monuments of the late second millennium until late Neo-Babylonian times; this consisted of a robe with pleats at the back of the skirt, a belt and crossed straps. The very fine drilling of the beard across the cheek is also found on seals which here deemed to be roughly contemporary".


  • Bibliography

    • Collon 2001a 148 and 328 (cf: drilling) bibliographic details
    • Collon 2001a 388, pls.XXXII and XLII bibliographic details
    • Collon 1987a 553 bibliographic details
    • Wittmann B 1992 no.60, pp.202, 261-2 bibliographic details
    • Boardman J 1984a p.34, no. 42 (in Moorey authored article) bibliographic details
    • Leemans W F 1945-8 p.438 bibliographic details
    • Walker & Kramer S N 1982 p.75 (cf: inscription (town-names)) bibliographic details
    • Brinkman J A 1962 p.98 bibliographic details
    • Parpola, SAA 9 pl.XLIII, fig.22 bibliographic details
    • Brinkman J A 1968 pp.215-16 bibliographic details
    • Carnegie H 1908 Qb 39 or B.39: Q 30, pp.82-3, pl.VI bibliographic details
    • Frame, RIMB 2 RIM.B.6.10.2002 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Condition

    Fair; the design is barely visible on the mottled stone; worn.

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Acquired by Southesk in 1883 from the Tyszkiewicz collection (Lot 19)

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • B.39: Q 30 (Southesk Collection Number)


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