- Museum number
Pale blue chalcedony cylinder seal; battle scene between Achaemenid and nomad combatants, ancillary motifs and symbols. A central personage (royal hero or king?) stands facing right with torso presented frontally; his beard, shaped to a point, and hair worn in a full page-boy style are both marked with fine striations, he wears a finely pointed dentate crown set on a narrow circlet, the Persian robe and shoes with straps (some of these details are obscured by chips); in his lowered right hand he holds a dagger with a rounded pommel and down-curved guard, while with his raised left hand he seizes his opponent by a tuft (?) of his hair. This opponent is presented from a three-quarters back view with his head in profile; he wears nomadic garments consisting of a high, pointed hood with neck flaps, tied under the chin, thigh-length tunic decorated with a central back panel of dots and baggy trousers or leggings with criss-cross lacings or pattern; he carries at his waist the gorytus (or bow-case) which rests on his right thigh, grasps the upraised arm of the victor and menaces him with his spike-butted axe. On the ground between the fighters, the body of the fallen nomad lies face downwards with his head towards the left; he is dressed like his companion (but this figure is also damaged). Behind the figure is a third nomad facing right, a captive with his wrists tied behind his back and with a rope around his neck attached to the victor's waist; he is in a different nomadic costume from that of his comrades and wears a domed cap with his hair bunched around it and curls over his forehead, his thigh-length cut-away coat is edged with a plain border and his trousers are undecorated. To the right is a snarling, rampant lion facing left, its front paws placed firmly on the knees of the fallen nomad; its head features, front paws and surviving back paw, and the tip of its upcurling tail are emphasized by drill-holes, the mane is marked by a criss-cross of fine and thick lines, running diagonally and ending in bristles along the crest of the neck, and the rib area and haunch are outlined by three modelled lines. Between the backs of the lion and enslaved nomad is a date palm with two bunches of fruit, palm fronds spread out in horizontal curves and with its trunk showing the scarring of 'V'-shaped petiole bases. Above the tree hovers the winged bust (of the Zorastrian god Ahuramazda) rising from a central (sun-)disc, presented in the same way as the main protogonist but with hands raised, the long wings and tail each have a central ridge with the feathers singled out along the lower edges and splaying out at the tips; both edges are worn and chipped to the extent of obliterating part of the upper and lower engraving.
- Production date
Diameter: 0.30 centimetres (drill-hole)
Diameter: 1.10 centimetres
Height: 2.10 centimetres
Weight: 5 grammes
- Curator's comments
- According to Merrillees catalogue "..the cut-away coat is worn alongside the straight coat by both Median guards and nomadic throne-and tribute-bearers at Persepolis.'Pointed hat' Scythians from the Eastern Stairway of the Apadana, possibly the eastern Saka tigraxauda, wear hoods similar to that of the chief nomadic protogonist, but the trousers are plain; see also Schmidt, 1970 for the equation of the nomads led by Skunkha with the western 'pointed hat' group, the 'Saka paradraya'. For comments on the hoods of some nomadic delegations, see Ghirshman. An unpublished cylinder from the Safani collection shows a nomad wrestling with a pair of leo-gryphs; although the figue is without any headgear, his dress with its decorated panel down the thigh-length tunic and criss-cross patterning of the leggings bears a close resemblance to that of the two nomadic fighters on" this seal" The manner in which the fallen nomads lie" on this seal and the other Merrillees catalogue seal cross-referenced "seems to owe something to the fallen enemy on Neo-Assyrian reliefs of Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC). There is a similar date-palm tree on an impression from Persepolis bearing the name of Xerxes. See also Boardman 1970a, pls.294 (for similar mane markings, especially the bristles, on an archaic Greek gem), 824, 844 (in Boardman's 'Court' style, for the lion's mane and use of the drill for its paws and facial features of the figures. Dandamaev considers that this seal commemorates the campaign against the Scythians 'who wear the pointed hat', between 515 and 510 BC".
- On display (G52/dc3)
- Exhibition history
2021 29 May-12 Sep, London, V&A, Epic Iran
2012 Nov, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 'Arabian Nights'
2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'
2005-2006 Sept-Jan, London, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'
1995-2005 17 Nov-Aug, BM, G52/IRAN/6
- Fair; semi-complete; chipped and worn at top and bottom
- Associated events
- Commemoration of: Campaign against the Scythians (?)
- Acquisition date
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number