- Museum number
Cylinder seal of light blue chalcedony: showing a crowned figure (royal hero or king?) in combat with a confronting animal, other animals and ancillary motif. The personage stands facing right with torso presented frontally, his square-tipped beard marked by fine diagonal lines, his hair is bunched in curls at the nape of the neck with a row of curls just above the ear and beneath the dentate crown, which has triangular teeth set on a narrow circlet; his face is strongly modelled, he wears the Persian robe which, instead of the usual skirt folds, is horizontally banded and vertically bordered with ladder ornamentation; he carries a quiver full of arrows over his shoulder and aims his bow, depicted as a semi-circle with curved extremities, at a rampant, snarling lioness (with a mane), its forelegs splayed and its two cubs between the combatants. The mane of the creature is marked by short diagonal and straight, stepped strokes giving a ridged effect, with bristles along the crest of the neck; along its abdomen are two rows of pendulous dugs at which one of the cubs suckles, standing up on its prostrate sibling; the tails of all three animals curl up and round, ending in a drill-hole. At the side stands a frontally presented Egyptian dwarf-god Bes, with plumed crown and bandy legs, arms bent, holding the hooved legs of a horned animal that is slung across his shoulders. The scene is set on a ground line and particular features of the figures, animals and weapons have been emphasized with drill-holes; worn and chipped along the edges.
- Production date
- 6thC BC-4thC BC
Diameter: 0.30 centimetres (perforation)
Diameter: 1.10 centimetres
Height: 2.40 centimetres
Weight: 6.50 grammes
- Curator's comments
According to Merrillees catalogue "asymmetrical designs seem to be a feature of the earlier Achaemenid period, especially the Proto-Achaemenid glyptic; in this case the animal with the splayed forelegs also suggests an early date. The presentation of this subject and choice of ancillary motif is unusual and no similar provenanced or unprovenanced examples can be cited, but a number of aspects of the seal can be paralleled".
Forgotten Empire catalogue entry
74 Cylinder seal showing hero in combat with a lion
The Persian hero aims an arrow at a rampant maned lioness; she suckles a cub that stands on its hindlegs on a reclining cub. A Bes figure stands at the side with a horned animal slung across his shoulders. Made of blue chalcedony.
Ex Southesk Collection; purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund in 1945
H 2.4 cm, Diam 1.2 cm
British Museum, ANE 129571
Boardman 2000: 161, fig. 5:12; Merrillees 2005: no. 60
- Bibliographic references
Merrillees 2005 / Catalogue of the Western Asiatic seals in the British Museum: Pre-Achaemenid and Achaemenid periods (60)
Carnegie H 1908 / Catalogue of the Collection of Antique Gems formed by James Ninth Earl of Southesk K.T (Qc34 or Qy 34:150, p.108, pl.VIII)
Weber O 1920 / Altorientalische Siegelbilder (322)
Frankfort H 1939 / Cylinder Seals: a documentary essay on the art and religion of the ancient Near East (pp.221-2, pl.XXXVIIh)
Collon 1987a / First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East (427)
Blurton 1997 / The Enduring Image: Treasures from the British Museum (p.68, no.56) (entry written by D.Collon)
Schmidt EF 1957a / Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries (pl.10: 33) (cf:)
Boardman 1968a / Archaic Greek gems (pp.169ff, nos. 133, 226, 228, 427, 538, 546, 549, 554) (cf:)
Abdi 1999a / Bes in the Achaemenid Empire (pp. 126-27, no.1.5)
Curtis & Tallis 2005 / Forgotten Empire: The world of Ancient Persia (cat. 74, p. 94)
Boardman 2000 / Persia and the West: An Archaeological Investigation of the Genesis of Achaemenid Art (p. 161, fig. 5:12)
- On display (G52/dc3)
- Exhibition history
2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'
2005-2006 Sept-Jan, London, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'
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; worn and chipped along the edges.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Presented to Southesk by Alexander C.Ionides in August 1904.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number