Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Cylinder seal with kneeling nude heroes, ca. 2220–2159 b.c.; Akkadian
    Mesopotamia
    Red jasper; H. 1 1/8 in. (2.8 cm), Diam. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)
    Anonymous Loan (L.1992.23.5)

    Four representations of a nude hero with six sidelocks of hair appear on this cylinder seal. Each wears a three-strand belt with a tassel. In all cases, the hero kneels on one knee and with both hands holds up a gatepost standard in front of his raised leg. Two vertical lines of inscription, one placed before a hero and another placed behind a second hero, give the name as Shatpum, son of Shallum, but do not provide an official title. Placed vertically in the field, a serpent appears behind one hero. In the spaces between the tops of the standards are four symbols: a sun disk, a lunar crescent, a fish, and a vase with flowing streams of water.

    The nude hero is often shown with this very explicit type of gatepost, which perhaps is the emblem of a specific god or group of deities. The heroes with gateposts, the flowing vase, and the fish suggest that the iconography of this seal is somehow connected with Ea, god of sweet water and wisdom. However, the meaning of individual symbols could change in different contexts. The sun, moon, vase, and fish are undoubtedly astral or planetary symbols—the vase with streams and the fish are forerunners of what in much later times become zodiacal signs.

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  • Cylinder seal with kneeling nude heroes, ca. 2220–2159 B.C.; Akkadian
    Mesopotamia
    Red jasper; H. 1 1/8 in. (2.8 cm), Diam. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)
    Anonymous Loan (L.1992.23.5)

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