A good Akkadian Lapis Lazuli Cylinder Seal for the Grand Vizier Lu-shagga
Akkadian Period, ca. 2350 - 2150 BCE
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Contests between heroes and animals first appeared in cylinder seals in the late fourth millennium BCE, and by the middle of the third millennium BCE, the combatants, which might include mythological opponents, had assumed heroic status. The contest was a favorite subject during the Akkadian period, where it possibly represents the contrast and ever-present struggle between the forces of nature.
With this fine example, a standing bearded hero grasps a water buffalo that is rearing on its hind legs. The head of the water buffalo is pushed back by the hero's right hand. The animal's wide horns are displayed frontally, as found on contemporary stamp seals from the Indus Valley where the water buffalo was native. Such imagery demonstrates cultural interaction resulting from trade and possibly diplomatic connections between the Akkadian empire and the Indus Valley (Harappan) civilization. The hero's ally in the contest scene is a bull-man, shown full-face with the horns, ears, and lower body of a bull. In Akkadian-period contest scenes, the bull-man is almost invariably, as here, in conflict with a lion. A two-column cuneiform inscription between the two combatants names the seal owner as "Lu-shagga, Grand Vizier", a title borne by the highest official of the empire.
Cylinder seals were produced in the Ancient New East from the fourth to first millennium BCE. Made from various materials, including limestone, rock crystal, lapis lazuli, serpentine, hematite and chalcedony, they were carved in intaglio either by a graver, a drill or a sharp tool; then when impressed on the clay they left their design in relief. As with the latter-day signet ring, their use was to mark ownership on documents and letters; some being inscribed with the owner's name. The engravings on seals differed from period to period and from area to area and provided an important insight into the Ancient Near East's religious, mythological, and day-to-day life over some three thousand years.
Dimensions: Length: 2.4 cm (0.94 inches)
Condition: Expected signs of ancient wear; the seal is intact and in very good condition overall.
Provenance: Private New York collection, acquired from Dr. Bron Lipkin, United Kingdom, in 2009. Previously in a private United Kingdom collection, assembled in the 1970s - 1980s, this seal is accompanied by a signed written description by Professor W. G. Lambert, Professor of Assyriology, University of Birmingham, UK, 1970 - 1993.
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