Description Cyprus produced cylinder seals only during the late 2nd millennium BCE. These seals combine Syrian and Mesopotamian imagery in a uniquely Cypriot fashion. This seal shows two nude female figures squatting on stools with their legs spread and bent, perhaps in childbirth. Each holds flowers in both hands, a symbol of fertility. Between them stands another figure, perhaps a childbirth goddess. A horned goat stands by, leaping on its hind legs. The image is uniquely Cypriot. 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.
Provenance Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1924, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1924
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