MJ1303

A rare Mittanian Cylinder Seal of Egyptian Blue, ca 1500 - 1300 BC

well carved, the scene portraying a bearded hunter wearing a short kilt with sword at his waist, bow and arrow raised as he stalks a grazing animal with a small lizard on its back, a bird behind with streamer in its beak, with standard and a large star in the field, set in a pendant of 18K gold.

Background: Cylinder seals are engraved, cylindrical objects designed to be rolled into clay to leave impressions.  The engraved images are carved in reverse, so that when rolled out onto clay they face the correct direction.

Throughout much of the ancient Near Eastern world, from the end of the 4th millennium B.C.E. until the 5th century B.C.E., cylinder seals were used both as administrative tools – functioning much as a signature does on an official document today, or used to mark one’s property and to prevent tampering with sealed doors or containers – and as decorative or protective amulets – often worn on a necklace or a pin.

The use of cylinder seals developed alongside that of the cuneiform writing system, invented in Mesopotamia near the end of the 4th millennium B.C.E.; prior to this, stamp seals (designed to be pressed onto clay or other media, rather than rolled) had served similar purposes.  Cuneiform was written on clay tablets, and cylinder seals were better suited than stamp seals to quickly fill empty spaces.  Cylinder seals remained the most popular form of sealing until the 1st millennium B.C.E., when parchment or papyrus gradually replaced clay as the predominant writing material, and stamp seals again became more popular.

Condition: The seal is intact and in excellent condition overall, with no visible chips, cracks or breaks. The roll impression reveals a full intaglio scene. Placed in a high-karat gold setting of classical style in the early 1970's. A unique and sensational piece. 

Dimensions:  height: 5.5 cm 

Provenance:  Private Palm Beach, Fl collection, acquired from the NY trade in the early 1970's.

All photos copyright Kornbluth Photography, Maryland

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