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

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description This seal depicts two kingly figures, hands raised, flanking a stylized or sacred tree with a winged sun disc above it. A tall palm is also included in the scene. Based on the figures' Persian dress, this seal dates to the reign of King Darius I (ca. 521-486 BCE) or after. During his reign Darius was involved in a great deal of political restructuring. Around his 6th year of rule the Achaemenid “court style” emerges, which visually reflected some of these changes. 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
  • Ancient Persia: The Art of an Empire. University Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin, Austin; The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1978.
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.
Credit Museum purchase [formerly part of the Walters Collection], 1941

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ca. 521-330 BCE (Achaemenid)
(Precious Stones & Gems)
Accession Number
H: 7/8 x Diam: 1/2 in. (2.3 x 1.3 cm)
  • Iran (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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