Cylinder seal and modern impression: smiting weather god before a Syrian goddess, nude goddess; ankh symbols
ca. 1720–1650 B.C.
1 x 0.43 in. (2.54 x 1.09 cm)
Gift of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky, 1988
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 403
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 smiting weather god wielding two weapons approached by a goddess wearing a square, horned miter and a long garment. Behind her stands a nude goddess wearing a brimmed cap and a galloping ibex above a seated lion. A number of objects are arranged in the empty spaces of the pictorial field including a crescent, a sun disk, and ankh symbols.
From 1986, on loan to the Museum by Martin and Sarah Cherkasky, New York (L.1986.47.1); acquired by the Museum in 1988, gift of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky, New York.
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, no. 59, p. 68.
Annual Report of the Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art 119 (July 1, 1988 - June 30, 1989), p. 16.