Seal amulet in the form of a seated female and modern impression

Period: Late Uruk–Jemdet Nasr

Date: ca. 3300–2900 B.C.

Geography: Southern Mesopotamia

Medium: Rhodochrosite

Dimensions: 5/8 x 7/8 x 1 1/8 in. (1.5 x 2.3 x 3 cm)

Classification: Stone-Stamp Seals

Credit Line: Gift of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky, 1988

Accession Number: 1988.380.1


This tiny but finely carved seal amulet is in the shape of a squatting female wearing a diadem. The single row of small cavities on the diadem, as well as those on her breasts and in her eye, were probably filled with inlay. Her head is shown in profile with a prominent nose. One visible arm rests on her torso, with her hand on a folded knee, while the other knee is held up. Similar squatting figures are known both on cylinder seals from Iran, Mesopotamia, and Syria and as small sculpture in the round from the Iranian site of Susa. Dating from the end of the late fourth into the early third millennium B.C., such depictions are today known as "pig-tailed women" and, although many appear to be engaged in pottery or textile manufacture, they may also have had some religious meaning, perhaps depicting a gesture of worship. The other side of the amulet may have been used as a seal to make an impression in damp clay. It is flat with eight groups of drill holes that possibly represent schematic dogs.