A Sumerian Marble Bull Stamp Seal, Late Uruk/Jemdet Nasr Period, ca. 3100-2900 BCE
Object No: MA1403
sensitively modeled from marble, a zoomorphic stamp seal in the shape of a reclining bull with head, horns, and legs clearly represented. The bull's eyes are indicated by drilled holes. Pierced laterally near the base for attachment, the underside with two stylized animals created by distinctive drill holes and the limbs by incised lines, making taxonomic identification difficult.
Background: For the early Sumerians the bull symbolized divinity and power. Their chief gods Enlil and Enki would be honored as the “Great Bull” in song and ritual, and bulls would occasionally be represented on stamp seals with the gods. Images of bull sacrifice have also been found engraved on Sumerian seals. The scenes depicting a bull being stabbed in the throat could be the first evidence of bull sacrificial rites in history. Representations of human-headed bulls and bull-headed humans are also known and are speculated to symbolize the dominance of man over wild animals or the power of intelligence over man’s animal instincts.
For related examples see: E. Moller, Ancient Near Eastern Seals in a Danish Collection, Copenhagen, 1992, pp. 10-18, nos 1-26. E. Gubel (ed.), A l'ombre de Babel: L'art du Proche-Orient Ancien dans les collections belges, Bruxelles, 1995, p. 41, no. 12.
Dimensions: Height: 1.75 cm ( 0.68 inches), Width: 3.17 cm (1.24 inches)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall, a very finely carved example.
Provenance: Private Texas collection, acquired in Israel in the 1960s and then by descent.
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