Stamp seal and modern impression: horned animal and bird

Period: Ubaid

Date: 6th–5th millennium B.C.

Geography: Syria or Anatolia

Medium: Steatite or chlorite

Dimensions: 0.2 x 0.8 x 0.84 in. (0.51 x 2.03 x 2.13 cm)

Classification: Stone-Stamp Seals

Credit Line: Bequest of Lester Wolfe, 1983

Accession Number: 1984.175.13


The impressing of carved stones into clay to seal containers had a long tradition in Mesopotamia, with the earliest evidence found in Syria dating to the seventh millennium B.C. During the Ubaid period, the variety of designs carved on seals expanded from simple geometric forms to include animals with humans, snakes, and birds. Seals like this one with deeply carved animal motifs became characteristic of northern Syria and southeastern Anatolia. It is decorated with a four-legged horned animal. Above the animal is a leaf shape, possibly a stylized bird, while two bent lines under its body may represent vegetation or perhaps snakes.