- Museum number
Dark grey-blue chalcedony cylinder seal; crowned figure (king?) in combat with confronting monster, ancillary motifs and symbols. The personage stands facing right with torso presented frontally, his long square-tipped beard and hair in a full page-boy style are both marked with fine transverse and diagonal striations; he wears a dentate crown with triangular teeth set on a wide circlet decorated with dots and is dressed in the Persian long robe with a three-strand waistband; his shoes show two or three ties or straps; he holds at his side a dagger with a rectangular pommel and straight guard, and he extends the other arm and seizes by the back of the head a winged, rampant, regardant, crowned human-headed bull (lamassu). The creature raises one foreleg straight up and the other is bent and hangs down; its beard and hair are both square-tipped and marked by transverse striations, the crown is finely 'spiked' and set on a row of dots, the wing sweeps back obliquely downwards with an undulating upper ridge along with feathers in a double row are finely singled out, ending in a curved and rounded splayed tip; the tufted tail curls up and round. A rhombus symbol is set vertically beneath the forelegs of the monster. To the side is a palm-tree with two globular branches of fruit, palm fronds falling free from a central core, and the base petioles of the trunk shown by downward, diagonally-meeting lines forming a cross-hatched pattern across the widened base. There is a crescent above to the left. To the right is a goat or ibex in exactly the same stance as the "lamassu" but turned the other way; it has a long, curved, notched horn, a beard and a short, curved tail. Beneath the animal's forelegs is a stylised-lotus symbol. The bodies of the creatures are marked by diagonal lines for the ribs and curves for the haunch muscles, with drill-holes emphasizing features of the heads, shoulders, haunches and joints. The engraving is very careful with fine light modelling. It should be noted that, depending on which way the seal is rolled, two heraldic groups can be formed: one consisting of the tree with a rampant creature on each side, looking back at it, while the other has the personage in the centre with the regardant creature on each side continuing to look towards the tree; however, the goat is not part of the combat group. Nevertheless, the seal should be rolled out and a half times for the composition to be fully appreciated;
Diameter: 0.20 centimetres (perforation)
Diameter: 1.40 centimetres
Height: 3.10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- According to Merrillees catalogue "a Proto-Achaemenid personage, in combat with a 'lamassu' and seemingly protecting a goat or ibex, appears on a seal impression from Nippur. There are similar 'lamussu'-creatures and palm-trees on seal impressions from Persepolis, two of them bearing the name of Xerxes (486-465 BC). Similar scenes appear on unprovenanced seals of possibly earlier date (a close parallel without the palm-tree or filing motifs)".
See Cullum J 'An attempt to Illustrate the British Museum' unpublished manuscript in the British Library 1834 pl.I.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'
2005-2006 Sept-Jan, London, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'
2003-2004 Nov-Nov, BM, Enlightenment gallery
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- According to Merrillees catalogue "a belief that this provenance of this seal was the Plain of Marathon may have been due to its illustration with other seals in an unpublished manuscript by Cullum, together with remarks about their possible origin, including Marathon, where Cullum mentions seals were found that were 'inscribed in the Persian style and probably belonged to the Persians who invaded Greece and were there slain' (see pl.I and Chapter I)".
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number