Openwork stamp seal: figure holding snakes

Period: Bronze Age

Date: ca. late 3rd–early 2nd millennium B.C.

Geography: Bactria-Margiana

Culture: Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex

Medium: Copper alloy

Dimensions: H. 9.1 cm

Classification: Metalwork-Stamp Seals

Credit Line: Purchase, David L. Klein Jr. Memorial Foundation Inc. Gift and Gift of Lester Wolfe, by exchange, 1984

Accession Number: 1984.4


Western Central Asia, now known as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and northern Afghanistan, has yielded objects attesting to a highly developed civilization in the late third and early second millennium B.C. Artifacts from the region indicate that there were contacts with Iran to the southwest.

Openwork copper or bronze stamp seals, often called "compartmented" seals, were cast in both geometric and figural patterns in Bactria-Margiana and are distinctive to that region. This copper-alloy example represents a male figure dressed in a short kilt and mountain boots with upturned toes. If his horned headdress is similar in meaning to examples found in Mesopotamia and Iran, the figure may be divine. The arrow-shaped forms emerging from his shoulders and under his arm may represent snakes or lightning bolts.