- Museum number
Grey-blue chalcedony cylinder seal; two figures sit on camp stools facing each other and raising shallow cups, on either side of a cross-legged table which has bull's legs; on the table lies a fish and above a star and a crescent; behind the figure on the right stands an attendant with a fly-whisk, and behind the attendant are a winged disc, the Pleiades and a rhomb. All three figures have identical shoulder-length hairstyles and wear wide-belted robes with a fringe round the hem, lines across the chest and double lines across the skirt; the attendant also has lines indicating pleating at the back of his robe. The figure on the left is bearded; the other two are clean-shaven, but the attendant wears a sword and is therefore male. Edges slightly chipped.
Diameter: 1.40 centimetres
Height: 2.95 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- According to Collon catalogue the lines indicating pleating at the back of the attendant's robe are typical of Babylonia from the late second millennium onwards (and adopted in Syria c.800 BC eg. at Carchemish). The stance of the figures, with their chest thrust forward is Babylonian and this accords with the findspot of the seal. Winged discs are unusual in Babylonia and the present one, squashed as it is between two heads, may have been added by an owner who wished to indicate his Assyrian allegiance. The scene with two seated figures with cups is also unusual on seals; indeed the closest pararells are among Early Dynasty seals, some two thousand years earlier, and similar banquets attested in the second millennium. However a sacred meal was still a popular subject in the first millennium in the Neo-Hittite states of south-eastern Anatolia and northern Syria. One of the rare occurences of a queen in Neo-Assyrian art is on the so-called 'Garden Party' relief of the reign of King Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC) where she and the king are drinking together. Our seal could therefore depict a husband and wife, though the hairstyle and dress are not differentiated, a father and son would be equally possible. However the attendant stands behind the beardless figure, who is facing left, which would seem to indicate that this figure is more important. So the seal could, in fact, depict the bearded owner of the seal and his young master, a person of some importance.
- Bibliographic references
Collon 2001a / Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum: Cylinder Seals V: Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Periods (149, pl. XI)
Keppel 1827a / Personal narrative of travels in Babylonia, Assyria, Media, & Scythia, in the year 1824 [= A journey from India to England ... in the year 1824] (pp.190-3, no.1)
Cullimore A 1842 / Oriental Cylinders, Impressions of ancient oriental cylinders, or rolling seals of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Medo-Persians (18)
Lajard F 1847 / Introduction a l'etude du culte public et des mysteres de Mithra en Orient et en Occident (pl.XVII.4)
Menant J 1886 / Recherches sur la glyptique orientale II (p.40)
Collon 1987a / First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East (823)
Barnett 1976 / Sculptures from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (668-627 B.C) (pl.LXV) (cf:)
Orthmann W 1971 / Untersuchungen zur spathethitischen Kunst (pl.14) (cf: Karaburclu I)
Unger E 1966a / OAW (250/2)
British Museum 2011a / Splendours of Mesopotamia (p.210, cat.189)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2013 - 2014 22 June - 6 Jan, Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, 'Mesopotamia, Inventing Our World'
2013: 30 Jan-13 May, Museum of History, Hong Kong, 'The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia'
2012: 4 May-7 Oct, Melbourne Museum, 'The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia'
2011 28 March-26 June, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, 'Splendours of Mesopotamia'
1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
- Fair; edges slightly chipped.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- According to catalogue ex Keppel collection, "We brought with us from Babylon, several cylinders, upon all of which, was something engraven. Numbers were found among the ruins...". Reference in register to xerox of "letter on Antiquities" and Donations volume in BM Central Archive.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number