Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cylinder seal and modern impression: hunter spearing a lion before deity with staff

Period:
Middle Bronze Age
Date:
ca. 17th century B.C. (?)
Geography:
Cyprus or Syria
Medium:
Black hematite
Dimensions:
0.94 in. (2.39 cm)
Classification:
Stone-Cylinder Seals
Credit Line:
The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76
Accession Number:
74.51.4308
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 173
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 two figures holding weapons and attacking a rearing lion. The figure on the left wears a short kilt and headdress with two small horns in the front, topped by a winged sun disc. The figure to the right is winged and wears a cloak with heavy borders and a tall conical headdress. Above the lion is a kneeling griffin-demon. Next to this scene the pictorial field is divided into three registers. At the top is a bull's head; in the middle are two birds; at the bottom is a seated lion.
Said to be from Kourion, 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. 1903. A Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collecton of Cypriote Antiquities. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, pl. CXVIII, 11.

Myres, John L. 1914. Handbook of the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities from Cyprus. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 448, no. 4308.

Porada, Edith. 1948. “The Cylinder Seals of the Late Cypriote Bronze Age.” American Journal of Archaeology 52, p. 182, pl. VIII, 8.

Porada, Edith. 1973. Acts of the International Archaeological Symposium: "The Mycenaeans in the Eastern Mediterranean", Nicosia 27th March-2nd April, 1972. Nicosia, Cyprus: Department of Antiquities, p. 272, pl. XXXIV, 3.

Mazzoni, Stefania. 1986. “La Dea Alata Con Vests Paleosiriana.” Egitto E Vicino Orient 9, p. 97, fig. 2.

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, p. 65, no. 102.
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