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Stamp seal and modern impression: unicorn and incense burner (?)

Period:
Mature Harappan
Date:
ca. 2600–1900 B.C.
Geography:
Indus Valley
Culture:
Indus
Medium:
Burnt steatite
Dimensions:
1 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 3/8 in. (3.8 x 3.8 x 1 cm)
Classification:
Stone-Stamp Seals-Inscribed
Credit Line:
Dodge Fund, 1949
Accession Number:
49.40.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 403
Stamp seals were used in antiquity as marks of ownership and badges of status. In the large urban centers of the Harappan civilization, hundreds of square-shaped stamp seals were found in excavations. They are engraved with images of wild or domestic animals, humans, fantastic creatures, and possibly divinities. In this example, the creature is rendered in the typical strict profile, standing before what might be an altar. Its shoulder is covered by a decorated quilt or harness in the shape of an upside-down heart pattern. Most of the square stamp seals have inscriptions along the top edge. The Indus script, invented around 2600 B.C., is yet to be fully deciphered.
Acquired by the Museum in 1949, purchased from Sir John Marshall, Guildford, Surrey.

“Archaeology: Exploring the Past,” The Junior Museum of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 22, 1962–June 30, 1966.

“Masterpieces of the Art of India from the Museum’s Collections,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 18–April 1, 1973.

Pittman, Holly. 1984. Art of the Bronze Age: Southeastern Iran, Western Central Asia, and the Indus Valley. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 83-84, fig. 38a.
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