THE RARE BOOK AND
MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Treasures


1 Cylinder seal ca. 2291-2255 B.C.
(Cuneiform 46-4)
Created in Mesopotamia over four thousand years ago during the Akkad period (2334-2154 B.C.), this cylinder seal is the oldest inscribed work of art at the University. The Akkad period occupies a unique position in Mesopotamian art; it is the only era in which is noted a preoccupation with the natural appearance of man and beast. The craftsman who produced this seal, depicting a hero wrestling with a lion, demonstrates consummate artistic skill in the delicate detail of the facial lines, as well as in the sense of drama effected by the contrast between the warrior's calm profile and the open-jawed fury of the lion. The awkwardly inserted cuneiform inscription, containing the personal name Ur-d Pa-bil-sag, servant of the god Pabilsag, may have been inscribed for a later owner; the first owner most likely considered his seal distinctive enough without an inscription. Cylinder seals were used not only to authenticate records and to secure moveable property but also were kept as amulets and worn as pendants on necklaces and bracelets.
Gift of Dallas Pratt and Aubrey Cartwright

Collections and Treasures