agate cylinder

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Akkadian Cylinder Seal, 18th-17th Century BC

A carved banded agate cylinder seal with frieze depicting a seated bearded figure (possibly a deity) in flounced robe holding a cup towards a standing figure  in a robe with herringbone pattern, a second figure in flounced robe, a third figure (worshipper) in tasseled robe, lamp with corrugated stand.

Kassite Cylinder Seal with a Prayer to Shamash, C. 1400-1100 BC

Made of red and grey agate with a seated man wearing a long robe, a dog seated at his feet, a horned animal head, a Kassite cross, a rhomb and fly in the field, with a six line Sumerian inscription reading “Shamash, great lord, merciful god, who heard prayer, who grants life, on the servant who reverences you have mercy.” (Shamash was the sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian pantheons)

The Kassites were an ancient Near Eastern people who controlled Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire in 1531 BC until around 1155 BC. They got a foothold in the control of Babylonia after the city of Babylon was sacked by the Hittites in 1595 BC. Kassites were members of a small military aristocracy and were efficient rulers. Their 500-year reign laid an essential groundwork for the development of subsequent Babylonian culture. The original homeland of the Kassites is not well known, but appears to have been located in the Zagros Mountains of Lorestan (modern day Iran).

Kassite Agate Cylinder Seal, 14th-13 Century BC

With the seated figure of a bearded deity wearing horned headdress and long fringed robe, holding long rod in one hand, a standing bearded male worshipper in front, right arm raised in gesture of supplication, with a fine 7 line Sumerian cuneiform royal inscription reading “Enlil, mighty lord, who determines the decrees about heaven and earth, Kadashman-Enlil, the noble you created, be his pleasant trust, may you return to its proper place the spirit of the throne.“

The Kassites were an ancient Near Eastern people who controlled Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire in 1531 BC until around 1155 BC. The Kassites gained control of Babylonia after the Hittite sack of the city in 1595 BC and established a dynasty based in Dur-Kurigalzu named after Kurigalzu I, who reigned some time in the 14th century BC. Kassites were members of a small military aristocracy and were efficient rulers. Their 500-year reign laid an essential groundwork for the development of subsequent Babylonian culture. The original homeland of the Kassites is not well known, but appears to have been located in the Zagros Mountains in Lorestan in what is now modern Iran.

Kassite Green Agate Cylinder Seal - Circa 1400-1100 BC


Depicting a seated god holding a trident sceptre, with three locusts above, with an eight line Sumerian partly intelligible inscription reading ’(Oh god) Amurru …, pre-eminent of the …, the hero of … Adad-… for Kurigalzu the prince who reveres you, bestow on him a happy reign.’

The Kassites were an ancient Near Eastern people who controlled Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire in 1531 BC until around 1155 BC. The Kassites gained control of Babylonia after the Hittite sack of the city in 1595 BC and established a dynasty based in Dur-Kurigalzu named after Kurigalzu I, who reigned some time in the 14th century BC.

The Seal of Darius the Great

Achaemenid Agate Cylinder Seal, Persian, 5th-4th century BC

This agate cylinder seal is engraved with a scene showing the Persian king standing in a chariot and shooting arrows at lions. The scene is framed by date palms and above the king’s head floats a figure in a winged disc, who is usually thought to be the Persian god Ahura-Mazda, but who may represent the spirit of the dead king or divine glory (khvarneh or farr) that was bestowed on the living ruler.

The cuneiform inscription written along one side is in three languages: Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian, and translates ‘Darius the great king’. This is presumably Darius I (reigned 521-486 BC) who reorganized the administration of the Persian Empire and was the first Persian king to mint coins. He also introduced cuneiform for recording inscriptions in Old Persian and built a canal linking the Nile with the Red Sea.

During Darius’ reign, Egypt was part of the Persian Empire with its former capital at Memphis now a seat of Persian administration. This seal is said to have been found in a tomb at Thebes which was the cemetery of Memphis. It is the most famous Persian-period object found in Egypt.

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Achaemenid Agate Cylinder Seal, c. 550-330 BC

This seal shows a king standing on sphinxes while holding a lion in each hand with palm tree and a winged sun disk above.

Even though cylinder seals had been carved in Mesopotamia for over three thousand years, the form was by no means exhausted by the time of the Persian conquest. Some of the most exquisite cylinders were produced in the Achaemenid workshops. On this seal it is no longer the nude bearded hero of the Akkadians who dominates the animals, but the Achaemenid king himself in a beautifully balanced yet artificial composition in which all elements are subservient to and a reflection of the king’s majesty.

Here is another similar Achaemenid Cylinder Seal…