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Cylinder Seal with a Cultic Scene
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Cylinder Seal with a Cultic Scene

Description Conservation Provenance Inscription Credit
Description This seal scene features a worshipper under a canopy. They face a deity, possibly Ishtar, goddess of fertility, who sits on a raised platform. Two winged genii (protective deities) hold ceremonial buckets and flank the central scene. Divine astral symbols appear above. A three-line inscription gives the name and titles of the owner: "Seal of Nabu-nurka-lamur, superintendent of Ahu-shamshi, the palace herald." The finely drilled style of this seal dates it to the 9th or 8th century BCE. Cylinder seals are cylindrical objects carved in reverse (intaglio) in order to leave raised impressions when rolled into clay. Seals were generally used to mark ownership, and they could act as official identifiers, like a signature, for individuals and institutions. A seal’s owner rolled impressions in wet clay to secure property such as baskets, letters, jars, and even rooms and buildings. This clay sealing prevented tampering because it had to be broken in order to access a safeguarded item. Cylinder seals were often made of durable material, usually stone, and most were drilled lengthwise so they could be strung and worn. A seal’s material and the images inscribed on the seal itself could be protective. The artistry and design might be appreciated and considered decorative as well. Cylinder seals were produced in the Near East beginning in the fourth millennium BCE and date to every period through the end of the first millennium BCE.
Date Description Narrative
Provenance Henry Walters, Baltimore, [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Sadie Jones (Mrs. Henry Walters), New York, 1931, by inheritance; Joseph Brummer, Paris and New York, 1941, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1942, by purchase.
Inscriptions [Transliteration, Akkadian] 1. x {d}pa-utu-x-szi 2. gal-e2 x x u2-szi 3. ub sanga e2-gal [] [Translation] Seal of Nabu-nurka-lamur, Superintendent of Ashu-shamshi, the palace herald
Credit Museum purchase [formerly part of the Walters Collection], 1942

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ca. 911-612 BCE (Neo-Assyrian)
carved pink quartzite, gold
(Precious Stones & Gems)
Accession Number
H: 2 3/8 x Diam: 3/4 in. (6.1 x 1.8 cm)


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