A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - The Sharkalishharri cylinder seal, like many other similar objects from the Uruk period, is an impressive example of the technical performance and the complex motives presented on it.
The cylindrical seals appeared at the end of the Uruk period (c.3500-3100 BC) began to be used to seal the first written documents.
This chlorite cylinder seal from about 2300 BC reveals the 5th King of Akkad and other scenes. The inscription reads, "the divine Sharkalisharri, king of Akkad, Ibni-sharrum, the scribe, is his servant."
Cylinder-seal of Sharkalisharri, Akkadian period (23rd century BC), Mesopotamia – made of chlorite. Credits: Louvre Musée
The object is very small (only 3, 9cm high, (1 1/2 in.); 2.6 cm in diameter (1 in.), still, it carries an important message because it’s a unique signature of its owner, the divine protection or
Filling motifs – figures or objects depicted in the spaces around the main scene – are another common feature on cylinder seals.
The print left by the rolling of these miniature bas-reliefs on the soft clay of the tablet reveals a rich iconography that varies with the different epochs.
The impression of the Sharkalisharri cylinder seal, ca. 2183- 2159 BC during Akkadian, reign of Shar-kali-sharri. Mesopotamia. Cuneiform inscription in Old Akkadian. Credits: Louvre Musée
Thus the dynasty of Akkad (2340-2200 BC) stone-cutters displayed a certain tendency for mythological scenes. The seal depicts two naked figures (heroes) looking straight at us and holding two jars and between the individuals, there are standing two water buffalos, carrying the inscription.
Cylinder seals were usually made of stone. They were engraved and specially designed to be rolled into clay to leave impressions. The engraved images, and usually text, were carved in reverse so that when rolled out onto clay they faced the correct direction.
Engraved cylinder seals were very popular and frequently used in the ancient Near Eastern world.
Their earliest examples used mainly magical, geometric or animal patterns. Later seals incorporated the owner’s name and depicted a variety of motifs. Both their use and fashioning were widely adopted by surrounding civilizations, including Egypt and the Indus valley.
It had several important functions, such as a protective amulet function regarding persons and/or property, authentication of written and significant text, contracts, or as an identity mark of the sender, to prevent tampering with containers, sealed doors and were often worn on a necklace or a pin.
The loss of a cylinder seal had serious consequences.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer