A Sumerian Shell Amulet of a Recumbent Bull, Middle Gawra Period, ca. 3500 - 3300 BCE
Background: For the early Sumerians the bull symbolized divinity and power. Their chief gods Enlil and Enki would be honored as the “Great Bull” in song and ritual, and bulls would occasionally be represented on stamp seals with the gods. Images of bull sacrifice have also been found engraved on Sumerian seals. The scenes depicting a bull being stabbed in the throat could be the first evidence of bull sacrificial rites in history. Representations of human-headed bulls, as well as bull-headed humans, have also been found. These hybrid representations may symbolize the dominance of man over wild animals or the power of intelligence over man’s animal instincts.
For related examples see: E. Moller, Ancient Near Eastern Seals in a Danish Collection, Copenhagen, 1992, pp. 10-18, nos 1-26.
E. Gubel (ed.), A l'ombre de Babel: L'art du Proche-Orient Ancien dans les collections belges, Bruxelles, 1995, p. 41, no. 12.
Harvard Art Museum Object no: #1931.162.6
Condition: losses to the surface and cracked in several places but otherwise stable, intact and in good condition overall.
Dimensions: Length: 1 7/8 inches (4.8 cm)
Provenance: Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Feuer, NY., acquired 1970s - 1980s.
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