Cylinder seal

A serpentine cylinder seal with a figurative frieze and cuneiform inscription in negative, so that a positive impression could be achieved once the seal was pressed against soft material such as clay. The god Nergal can thus be seen holding up his double lion-headed sceptre in his left hand, and in his right, a khopesh (a sickle-sword) while trampling underfoot an enemy lying on his back. The god is facing two other worshipping gods: the first grasping the defensively raised hand of the recumbent man. Behind the two gods may be the seal's owner with both hands crossed at chest height. Seal inscription: ša É LUGAL "from the house of the king".

During the first Empire in ancient Babylon the production of cylinder seals to stamp printed documents and clay tablets grew. Many texts produced by these methods in cuneiform in the Babylonian culture have been recovered and have provided us with extremely valuable information to document aspects of its history, culture and traditions. Many of these texts fell into Assyrian hands during their conquest of Babylon. They boasted of the number of cuneiform texts which fell to them carried off from the Babylonians. Moe than 17,000 clay tablets with date of trade and information on the customs of the region have been recovered from the cities of Mari and Ebla. From these can be seen that the favourite theme is the Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero in the ancient Mesopotamian epic poem, which tells of his combat with a monster and the Bull of Heaven. This popular theme in Mesopotamia was also dealt with in Babylon as we saw previously in Sumer and Assyria.


- COLLON, D. First Impressions. Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East. London. 2005. Figure 832.

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