Note that it is often difficult to tell the origin of many ancient items for certain, especially where, as with Syria, Meospotamia and Sumeria, the same style, materials and techinques are widely used. Our placement has been the best guess we can make based on similarities with dated items.
A small, c. 60 mm limestone “occulus” statue from the Tell Brak region of northern Irak c. 4000-3000 B.C. This distinctive form is found over the area between the Euphrates and Tirgis during the 4th millennium and nowhere else. Large “eye”-like images and concentric-border “occulus” motifs are common around the neolithic and primitive world, but this remains a unique subset. These statues are fairly common as they are found in quantities in temples and other sacred enclosures on several sites. 73 x 51 27 mm. Location unknown.
A black steatite cylinder seal from Syria c. 1800-1600 B.C. Strongly incised and with drilled elements. it shows the goat, associated with the storm god, stars, crescent moon, the sacred tree, a star over a flaming altar and a seated god or deified king with a standard. The star of divinity and altar could possibly be a two character inscription of the owner's name rather than symbols. Around the bottom is a double band filled with netting with birds, animals and fish trapped in the net. This imagry seems to confirm that what is commonly called “fishnet” pattern really is a net. The top has a single edging line, and Syrian seals more consistently show border lines than do Mesopotamian and Sumerian ones. This complex seal displays most of the religious symbols of Syria, and some, like the goat, are fine engraving art. The goat was an important sacrificial animal as a “human substitute”, and is closely linked to the storm god Baal. Baal might even be the seated god. 33 mm x 15 mm. In a private collection.
A black steatite cylinder seal showing two birds over the sacred double mountain of Mashu (Akkadian for “twins”). These were the sacred mountains that Gilgamish had to pass before he could reach the land of the gods. Crescent moon above one bird, drilled dots for stars and a boxed linear cuneiform inscription. The second panel of the inscription seems almost more Egyptian hieroglyphic than cuneiform, and some Syrian seals show mixed inscriptions or meaningless ‘hieroglyphs’ as symbols of fashion and power. Two birds are one of the symbols for Ishtar and are frequently found next to her on seals. They could also be the evil Imdugud birds since their occurrance in myth dates from the time when Mashu figures in Sumerian mythology. 1800–1500 B.C., black steatite, 30mm x 18 mm. In a private collection.
This is a stamp seal from c. 3000-2000 B.C. of the early North Syrian cities. It shows the Storm God's symbolic goat, drilled star and chevron. The top has a linear, cross-hatched pattern as is found on many early seals with so-called “linear pattern“ designs. Grey, cream and brown steatite, 35 mm x 22 mm oval. In a private collection.
An interesting early scaraboid. The top has engraved lines showing the scarab beetle’s anatomy in a stylized way, a sign of very early scaraboids since later ones have smooth tops and are much smaller. The bottom depicts a goat, two clumps of vegetation and a crescent moon. The seal shows large areas of black discoloration that hints at it being from a city that was sacked and burned, an altogether too common fate of ancient cities. From c. 1000-800 B.C. Mottled grey and tan steatite, 35 mm x 26 mm oval. In a private collection.
A black stone two-sided amuletic seal. On the obverse a warrior spearing a lion and a star of divinity in the sky -- the warrior could be Baal who had the lion as one of his sacred animals, although the lion was also a symbol of Ishtar. The reverse has a three-line inscription in linear cuneiform. Apx. 35 mm square and from c. 1000-600 B.C. In a private collection.
An unclothed, winged Ishtar stands holding the rod and circle of justice in each hand. There is a lion and crescent moon on each side, drilled stars and a table (?). The boxed inscription is in two horizontal registers; the top a linear cuneiform, but the bottom appears to be Egyptian hieroglyphics. Nonsense hieroglyphics appear frequently on Syrian seals of this period as magical signs, and so these may have no decipherable meaning. The cloudy rock crystal is a scarce material for cylinder seals, although it could polish up to more transparent. An attractive and unusual seal in many ways. 30 x 16 mm, c. 1000-600 B.C.
An attractive, translucent quartz seal in the usual late first millennium style — domed, pierced for suspension and far smaller than earlier seals. Groove around the base and a god holding a staff on the bottom. 20 x 15 mm x 24 mm tall, c. 800-500 B.C. In a private collection.
Another Neo-Babylonian date domed stamp seal in a hard black stone, perhaps basalt. An oval occulus motif on the bottom. This lower, small shaped seal was to become the standard in the Parthian and Sassanian Empires up to the Arab conquest. 18 x 10 mm x 154 mm tall, c. 800-500 B.C. In a private collection.
A hollow pottery votive statuette of the Phoenecian goddess Tanit, also a key goddess in Carthage. Originally this would have been painted. The hands are held in the same offeratory pose as with the ancient Sumerian stone statues. 149 mm tall, c. 900-400 B.C. Location unknown.
A large stamp seal of an eagle displayed on a lightly domed steatite seal with linear pattern top. it is drilled for suspension and shows the multi-color mottling the Syrians so loved. The eagle is a common Syrian animal on seals and decorations, likely a result of their environment and use of birds for hawking throughout their history. A scarce and interesting seal. 36 x 20 mm x 12 mm high, c. 3000-2000 B.C. In a private collection.
A Syrian gabled seal of a type common through the Middle east in the fourth and third millennia. The top has linear cuts as decoration, and the bottom a god, star of divinity, drille dot and an object in the god’s hand. He seems to be engaging in a ritual act. 30 x 25 mm x 14 mm high, c. 4000-2500 B.C.
A black hardstone stamp seal, likely basalt. It has a linear design on the top that may relate to the Luwian hieroglyphic for “city”. The bottom seal is a god with a star of divinity, some plants and a three character linear cuneiform inscription, most likely a name. From the imagry I would presume this to be a very late gable seal and date to c. 1400-800 B.C., but it is a difficult seal to date exactly. Gable seals are mostly before 2500 B.C., the engraving seems Old Babylonian in style, but the stone could be after 1000. x 24 mm x 14 mm high. In a private collection.
A hard black stone (basalt?) stamp seal of irregular shape depicting a solar disk (star of divinity?), leaping bull and double mountain. The bull is the symbol for Baal, the thunder god and the double mountains are likely the sacred Sumerian double mountains of Mashu that protected the land of the gods from mankind. In Sumerian mythology only Gilgsamish, of al the mortals, was able to pass them to the land of the gods, and he was a demigod. The top is decorated with the Luwian hieroglyph for “city” with rays of brightness added. A noted Luwian linguist suggested it likely is intended to mean a ‘brilliant city’, and that the date is of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms in northern Syria. This is a very late usage for such Anatolian hieroglyphs and shows how they continued to be modified as symbols long after they ceased to be used for general writing. The stone’s shape is irregular, but apx. 33 x 31 mm x 15 mm high, c. 900-600 B.C. In a private collection.
A first millennium stamp seal of a goat and star of divinity. The goat is seen on many seals, especially later ones, as it was a standard sacrificial animal, sometime described as a “man equivalent”, which looks back to the days of human sacrifice. The top is decorated with a linear design. Apx. 33 x 35 mm, c. 1800-1200 B.C. Location unknown.
Black stone seal with a symbolic linear design on top, possibly related to G-Syr 14 in origin, but it may also descend from a Sumerian cuneiform character. The seal bottom shows a gazelle and a star of divinity. The animal is rather elegant and graceful for a seal of this period. Apx. 35 x 40 mm, c. 1800-1200 B.C. Location unknown.
A chalcedony stamp seal showing either a figure and a staff or a seated animal, transversely pierced for suspension. Apx. 18-19 mm tall, c. 700-400 B.C. Location unknown.
A black stone cylinder seal with a white vein through the middle. One one half is a god with horned hat and linear cuneiform inscription; on the other a goat, star and sacred tree. With it’s iconically separate Babylonian and Syrian designs it may have been the seal of a merchant who traded between the two areas. Apx. 28 x 18 mm, c. 1900-1600 B.C. In a private collection.
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