Ancient Mesopotamia Cylinder Seals:sizes, designs and shapes

Ancient Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals:sizes, designs and shapes

d Mesopotamian art is unique and diverse. Cylinder seals, small stone cylinders covered with a design were the oldest form of art in Mesopotamia. Cylinder seals were used as ownership stamps for the people. They were also used as jewellery or magical amulets. Cylinder seals were related with the cuneiform system of writing because they were used to authenticate cuneiform documents.

These seals differ in sizes, designs and shapes. It was from the 3rd millennium BC that they began to be prevalent. They were used extensively by the government officials in various occasions such as sealing the closure of the door of a storeroom, confirmation of receipt etc. Cylinders were used as signatures in contracts and other documents.

Average size of a cylinder seal was from 3 to 6 centimetres. The surface of the cylinder was carved in intaglio with a design so that it would leave an impression of the design when rolled on clay. The seals were often engraved with mythological symbols and images. Seals are both reversely and positively carved.

Both precious and semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, cornelian, steatite and also materials like ivory, bone and wood were used to make these seals. The royal cylinder seal depicting “The sun has risen’ was developed in 2308 BC. Cylinder seals have survived because of the obvious reason that they are made of stone.