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cylinder seal

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Pale white-grey quartz, chalcedony cylinder seal with brown inclusions. A bearded male figure wears a circlet over shoulder-length hair, and an open mantle with ladder-patterned borders that leaves the forward leg free, beneath which appear the edge of a kilt marked by four horizontal lines, and four strings of a tasselled belt; he holds the edge of his garment in his left hand and a mace head-downwards in his right hand, and he faces a suppliant goddess. Between them are a fish-man in the upper field and, in the lower field, a hero kneeling on one knee on a base-line, naked apart from a double belt; both face the goddess, are bearded, wear a circlet over hair that hangs down at the back, and each holds a globular vessel in both hands; the vessels are linked by double and triple undulating streams of water that cross over, with one fish swimming up and one down the stream on the right. There are six lines of framed cuneiform inscription, with the frame on the right cut twice, and the line at the bottom extends below the figures, but is incomplete at the end of the first line.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1450BC-1350BC
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 3.57 centimetres
    • Diameter: 1.56 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Transliteration

        1 dnanna bára ù
        (sîn åarru elÿ/åaqÿ)
        ibila sag
        (aplu aåarîdu åa enlil)
        ñé.zálag ñé.zil ñé.silim
        (limmir lidmiq liålim)
        ud.meå ñé.diri
        (ûmi balâøi lîtir)
        5 na®kiåib ne gar
        (aradka åakin kunukki annï)
      • Inscription Translation

        O Nanna, lofty king. prime heir of Enlil: may he beam, may he prosper, may he succeed, may he have a long life, (namely) your servant who is equipped with this seal.
      • Inscription Comment

        A prayer on behalf of the owner of the seal for prosperity, health, riches and happiness.
  • Curator's comments

    Matthews (pp. 86 and 136) classifies this seal as belonging to the Central Tradition of the First Kassite style. He notes (p. 71) “that the Open dress [worn by the male figure] is to some extent the Kassite equivalent [of the costume worn by the Old Babylonian “king with a mace”], as both combine with the same arm attitude and [they] are both often found with ‘interceding’ figures [see also his p. 72 and his no. 1]. The meaning may have some ‘heroic’ connotation – especially as this is the only place where tassels, as in the Assyrian ‘hero’, appear” and he refers also to his nos 1, and 78 (BM 89001). He also points out (p. 71 n. 190) that the arms of the fish-man and kneeling hero are in a posture that is otherwise the prerogative of the “nude female” (see also (BM 89175) and 126), and comments (p. 81 n. 286) on the line beneath the kneeling figure. See the Introduction to this chapter, Section I.3.

    Inscription notes: The use of bára for åarru (no doubt by metonymy) has much lexical support, see CAD åarru. The reading and meaning of ùn.(na) “high” is known from Sumerian literary texts (TCS 3 57 note on 30), and the tradition of the list Ea gives two relevant readings of BÀD: [(ó).u]g? and «u4».[u]n (MSL XIV 60 765-766). Ea VIII dealt with the matter, but the section is lost; Aa preserves the meanings but not the pronunciation glosses: EZENxBAD = åa-qu-[u], e-lu-u, åá-mu-[u], EZENxBAD = mu-tum (op. cit. 498-499 44-47). The two glosses should of course be ó-un and ó-ug, since ùn is certainly “high” (as in the seal under discussion), though “death” etc. can be either ùn or ug5 in learned Babylonian texts. For the former see IVR2 30 no. 2 24-25 and An = Anum V 312 283 (ed. R.L. Litke, Yale) with variants and TCL 15 31 416-417. 3. Cf. Limet 6.3: ñé-li ñé-NUN is unhelpful. But it can be read zil as a “phonetic” writing for zíl = dmq, and for the appropriateness of this note the variant in a physiognomic text: ina-mir: idammiq(sig5)iq (CT 28 28 16). 5. Cf. Antagal G 63: me zé.tuku.zu = ardu pa[liñ-ka] (MSL XVII 223 63). It is tempting to take out as ardu pâliñ, but while me is certainly ardu, (BM 129531): ní excludes that. So = me in these passages.


  • Bibliography

    • Lajard F 1847 31,5 bibliographic details
    • Ward W H 1910 654 bibliographic details
    • Matthews, D M 1990 no. 3 bibliographic details
    • Beran T 1957 p. 258 bibliographic details
    • Guide 1922 p.232 bibliographic details
    • van Buren E D 1954 pl. II:14pp. 23 n. 1, 36 n. 3 bibliographic details
    • van Buren E D 1933 pp. 2, 101 , pl. XVII: fig. 60 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Condition

    Chipping of the edges and the lower end; some faults in the stone contain brown inclusions, and the most prominent runs across the male figure’s robe

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Axelblad Collection (1763-1819); acquired by Blacas Collection BL 725 (NB not B.L 725); transferred from BM Greek and Roman Dept. 1888.

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • 1888,0128.1 (registration number in Egyptian acquisition register)
    • BL.725 (alternative registration number)
Pale white-grey chalcedony cylinder seal with brown inclusions; a bearded heroic figure holds a mace and faces a goddess who raises her hands in prayer; between them are a fish-man and a naked hero who hold vases which are linked by streams of water and fish, denoting fertility; six line inscription.


Pale white-grey chalcedony cylinder seal with brown inclusions; a bearded heroic figure holds a mace and faces a goddess who raises her hands in prayer; between them are a fish-man and a naked hero who hold vases which are linked by streams of water and fish, denoting fertility; six line inscription.

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