- Museum number
Pale white-blue chalcedony cylinder seal; Gilgamesh, on the left and his friend Enkidu, on the right, kill the Bull of Heaven while Ishtar tries to prevent them; above (ie. in the background) two birds (probably birds of prey) attack a falling stag. All the figures have shoulder-length hair which is curled at the end and wear robes decorated with bands of the dot-in-double square motif; the men have long beards with several rows of curls. Gilgamesh wears a tall head-dress with curved sides and triple horns, and a long, open short-sleeved coat (?) decorated with dot-in-square borders falling vertically from the shoulders and in curves over the hips and at the ankles; beneath this he wears a kilt with double edges and a border of dots; across his shoulders he has quivers, bows and decorated maces. With his right hand he grasps the Bull by the forelock or by one horn or ear and with his left stabs it at the back of the head; one foot rests against the Bull's knee. Enkidu wears a wrap-around kilt, and the tasselled end of his belt hangs between his legs; he grasps the Bull's tasselled tail in his right hand and brandishes a dagger in his left hand (note that both figures are left-handed). The Bull is falling on the ground between the heroes, with its head towards the left, in the same posture as the stag above; it is human-headed, winged with small drill-holes and hatching on the neck and body. Ishtar's body seems to be turned to the left, judging from the curve of the tasselled shawl over her hip, but her feet are missing, due to a chip; she is looking back over her shoulder towards the right and wears a feather-topped crown, decorated with dots and with a single pair of horns; she grasps Enkidu's raised arm with one hand and seems to tap Gilgamesh on the shoulder with the other. The falling stag fills the space above the Bull of Heaven; two birds with outspread wings perch on tis back and swoop on it from the rear. Chips along bottom edge.
- Production date
Diameter: 1.30 centimetres
Height: 2.90 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- According to the catalogue "the episode of the killing of the Bull of Heaven is recounted on Tablet IV of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The iconography of the depiction, although without Ishtar, occurs from at least the fourteenth century onwards. There is a cursory but closely similar depiction of the same scene on a seal originally in the De Clercq Collection, probably from the same workshop. Although the main composition is the same, there is less detailing, the stag was been replaced by a winged bull walking towards the right, and a cresent and star have been added above. Ishtar has the same jutting jaw on both seals..... it has been suggested that (this seal and another one).... may have been made in late ninth or early eighth century in a workshop influenced by the iconography of both Assyria and Babylonia, and possibly located on the borders with Iran. Wittmann does not consider this seal to be Babylonian".
N.b. This episode is Gilgamesh Tablet VI not IV.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2022 26 Mar-19 Jun, Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham, Ancient Iraq
2020 7-18 Mar and 1 Sep-1 Nov, Newcastle upon Tyne, Great North Museum: Hancock, Ancient Iraq
2019 21 Sep-17 Nov, Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, Dorchester, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 8 Jun-31 Aug Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 15 Mar-26 May, Bolton Museum, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2018-2019 14 Dec-3 Mar, National Justice Museum, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2018 25 Sep– 2 Dec, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2013 3 Nov - 2014 21 Apr, Herne, LWL Museum fur Archaologie, 'Uruk: 5000 Years of the Megacity'
2013 25 Apr - 8 Sep, Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum, 'Uruk: 5000 Years of the Megacity' (displayed in Herne only)
2011 28 March-26 June, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, 'Splendours of Mesopotamia'
2003 19 March-7 June, Greece, Athens, Benaki Museum, 'The Bull in the Mediterranean World'
2002 14 November-2003 6 March, Spain, Barcelona, Salo del Tinell, 'The Bull in the Mediterranean World'
1996 14 Jun-29 Sep, London, The British Library, The Mythical Quest
- Fair; chips along the bottom edge.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased by Cureton at the Sotheby's sale of the Sargent collection, lot 174
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number