Not on view
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. At the center of the impression, a worshipper in a ceremonial robe offers a goat to the sun god. Behind the sun god stands a lion demon holding a captive upside down, and a god with a scimitar. A suppliant goddess stands behind the worshipper. Presentation scenes – featuring a worshipper before a deity or ruler – were common motifs on seals of the Old Babylonian period. The use of hematite, a dark colored hard stone, is another characteristic of seal production in this period.