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Cylinder Seal with a Contest Scene and an Inscription
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Cylinder Seal with a Contest Scene and an Inscription


Description Provenance Inscription Credit
Description The scene on this seal comprises two parts. The first depicts a bull-man battling a lion; the second shows a nude hero battling an inverted bull. There is a cuneiform inscription in two registers featuring the names of Shamash (Utu), the sun god, and his wife Aya. A small bow-legged figure holding a staff stands below these registers. 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, [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, 1941, by purchase.
Inscriptions [Transliteration, Akkadian] 1. {d}utu 2. {d}a-a [https://cdli.ucla.edu/search/archival_view.php?ObjectID=P272873] [Translation] 1. Utu 2. Aya
Credit Museum purchase [formerly part of the Walters Collection], 1941

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Creator
Period
20th-19th century BCE (early Old Babylonian/Isin Larsa)
Medium
hematite
(Precious Stones & Gems)
Accession Number
42.687
Measurements
H: 13/16 x Diam: 7/16 in. (2.1 x 1.1 cm)
Geographies
Location Within Museum
Not On View

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