- Museum number
Cylinder seal; eyed sardonyx (probably artifically dyed), banded browns and white; the patchy brown and grey appearance of the eye suggests the seal was worked in agate (possibly grey and whitish) and then dyed using a honey-like solution so that the induced colouring follows the natural banding of the material; monster in combat with an animal, and ancillary symbols. A winged centaur-like (human-headed bull) creature facing right with torso presented frontally, leaps forward with forelegs stretched straight out; the demi-man has a long square-tipped beard and hair in a full bunch at the nape of the neck, both marked by transverse striations, he wears a 'spiked' crown, but no upper garment is visible; its animal body is that of a bull with a long tufted tail curving up and round, the wing sweeps up and back, marked by two rows of diagonal lines representing feathers and the curved tip ends in a beaked, horned griffin head. The creature aims his bow, depicted as a semi-circle with curved extremities, at a regardant ibex or goat, rampant towards the right, its forelegs resting on a stylised sacred tree; the animal has a long, curving, ridged horn, beard, short stubby tail and four short lines mark out the rib area. The tree symbol follows Neo-Assyrian stylised tree types with main central cone outlined by a narrow raised ridge and surrounded by diagonal rows of ray-like strokes; its close placement in relation to the rest of the design suggests it may belong to an earlier design, while the bird with pointed beak, facing right, perched rather awkwardly on top of it may have been added later. So too the winged disc hovering above the scene, with the feathers marked unevenly from the upper ridges of the straight wings and tail; a roughly-curved line stretches across the top central portion of the wings. The careless engraving of the bird and winged symbol contrast with the rest of the figures, and reinforces the probability of their being cut later; both edges of the seal are worn with one large chip on the lower edge, together with some rough patches over the seal surface, especially in the area of the bird, which suggests later cutting.
- Production date
- 600BC (?)
Diameter: 0.15 centimetres
Diameter: 1.25 centimetres
Height: 1.15 centimetres
- Curator's comments
According to Merrillees catalogue "composite centaur-type creatures with bows occur on seal impressions from Memphis, probably dating to the reign of Xerxes I, 486-465 BC and on a seal from Susa; the Memphis impression also depicts an unusual winged human figure in a Persian robe with the wing tip in the form of a griffin head.... The tree is best paralleled on Neo-Assyrian seals of the seventh century; there is a similar tree on a Proto-Achaemenid seal".
Cf. L Delaporte, 'Musée du Louvre, Catalogue des cylindres orientaux II. Acquisitions', Paris 1920-1923, pl.89:14, A714. C H Gordon, 'Western Asiatic seals in the Walters Art Gallery', London BSAI 1939, 106.
Forgotten Empire catalogue entry
291 Cylinder seal in banded brown and white stone showing a winged animal and an ibex
The winged animal with a human protome wearing a crown leaps towards the right and aims an arrow at a retreating rampant ibex that looks back at its assailant. Above is a winged disc. A stylized tree and a large bird perching on it have been incongruously added to the scene. This might indicate that the chip at the bottom of the seal led to its subsequent use as a trial piece.
Acquired from the Southesk Collection in 1945 with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund, previously in the collection of R.P. Greg until 1895
H 1.15 cm, Diam 1.25 cm
British Museum, ANE 129565
Merrillees 2005: no. 61
- 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'
- Fair; both edges worn; one large chip on lower edge; rough patches over surface.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired by Southesk from the Greg collection.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number