Although engraved stones had been used as early as the seventh millennium B.C. to stamp impressions in clay, the invention in the fourth millennium B.C. of carved cylinders that could be rolled over clay allowed the development of more complex seal designs. These cylinder seals, first used in Mesopotamia, served as a mark of ownership or identification. Seals were either impressed on lumps of clay that were used to close jars, doors, and baskets, or they were rolled onto clay tablets that recorded information about commercial or legal transactions. The seals were often made of precious stones. Protective properties may have been ascribed to both the material itself and the carved designs. Seals are important to the study of ancient Near Eastern art because many examples survive from every period and can, therefore, help to define chronological phases. Often preserving imagery no longer extant in any other medium, they serve as a visual chronicle of style and iconography.
The modern impression of the seal is shown so that the entire design can be seen. This seal shows a seated figure wearing a long flounced or patterned robe holding the tail of a large griffin in one hand and touching the hind legs of a smaller, reversed lion with the other.
Said to be from Ayia Paraskevi, Cyprus.
1865–1872, found in Cyprus by General Luigi Palma di Cesnola; acquired by the Museum in 1874, purchased from General Luigi Palma di Cesnola.
di Cesnola, Luigi Palma. 1878. Cyprus: Its Ancient Cities, Tombs, and Temples. New York: Harper & Brothers, pl. XXXI, 9.
di Cesnola, Luigi Palma. 1903. A Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collecton of Cypriote Antiquities. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, pl. CXIX, 7.
Ward, William H. 1910. The Seal Cylinders of Western Asia. Washington: Carnegie Institution, no. 1154.
Myres, John L. 1914. Handbook of the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities from Cyprus. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 4312.
Porada, Edith. 1948. “The Cylinder Seals of the Late Cypriote Bronze Age.” American Journal of Archaeology 52, no. 25.
Karageorghis, Vassos, in collaboration with Joan R. Mertens and Marice E. Rose. 2000. Ancient Art from Cyprus: The Cesnola Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 65-66, no. 103.