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The Cyrus Cylinder from Ancient Babylon and the Beginning of the Persian Empire

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Cult vessel in the form of a tower with cylinder seal impressions near the top

Period:
Middle Bronze Age
Date:
ca. 19th century B.C.
Geography:
Syria
Medium:
Ceramic
Dimensions:
H. 31.4 cm, W. 8.3 cm, D. 11.4 cm
Classification:
Ceramics-Vessels
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1968
Accession Number:
68.155
  • Description

    This two-story tower is surmounted by a male figure grasping the hindquarters of two lions. A large vessel rests between the felines. A door is cut into the lower facade and a window on the upper floor; circular bosses indicating wooden beams appear at the top of each story. The entire stand is pierced from the vessel at the top through each level, including the bottom, so that liquid libations might be poured in a ritual of some sort. Such an object would have been used in a temple or sanctuary during religious rites. The style is crude in comparison to the delicacy of the multiple cylinder-seal impressions that were made across the top in front of the lions. The Syro-Anatolian seal depicts a seated male figure with a striding male before him dressed in a kilt with arms bent and held out in a gesture of respect and greeting. In between the two is a monkey as a filler motif. Behind the seated figure is a smiting deity wearing a kilt and horned crown. He holds what seem to be the weapons of the weather god—a lightning bolt and sword. The vessel is comparable to other second-millennium tower-shaped examples excavated in Mesopotamia and the Levant and probably was placed on top of an offering stand.

  • Provenance

    Acquired by the Museum in 1968, purchased from George Zacos, Switzerland.

  • References

    Crawford, Vaughn E. 1969. "Reports of the Departments: Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28 (2), pp. 57-58.

    Imai, Ayako. 1983. In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 7, pl. 7.

    Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, pp. 21-22, fig. 22.

    Hallager, Erik. 1985. The Master Impression: a clay sealing from the Greek-Swedish excavations at Kastelli, Khania. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 69. Göteborg: P. Åström förlag, p. 33, fig. 31.

    Pittman, Holly, in collaboration with Joan Aruz. 1987. Ancient Art in Miniature: Near Eastern Seals from the Collection of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 13-14, fig. 4.

    Karageorghis, Vassos. 1990. "Miscellanea from Late Bronze Age Cyprus." Levant 22, p. 158.

    Bretschneider, Joachim. 1991. Architekturmodelle in Vorderasien und der östlichen Ägäis von neolithikum bis in das 1. Jahrtausend. Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Vol. 229. Kevelaer : Butzon & Bercker, no. 55, p. 216ff, pl. 58.

    Aruz, Joan. 1996 and 1997. Les Cases de l'Ànima: Maquetes arquitectòniques de l'Antiguitat (5500 aC/300dC). Las Casas del Alma: Maquetas arquitectònicas de la Antigüedad (5500 aC/300dC), exh. cat. edited by P. Azara, Barcelona: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Diputació de Barcelona. no. 29, pp. 187-189.

    Muller, Béatrice. 2002. Les "maquettes architecturales" du Proche-Orient ancien: Mésopotamie, Syrie, Palestine du IIIe au milieu du Ier millénaire av. J.C. Beyrouth: Institut français d'archéologie du Proche-Orient, no. 174, p. 62, fig. 174.

    Aruz, Joan. 2005. “Sealing Beyond the Storeroom Door in the Aegean and the Near East.” In Studi in Onore di Enrica Fiandra, edited by M. Perna. Studi Egei e vicinorientale 1. Napoli: De Boccard, pp. 36-38, figs. 3a-c.

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    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
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