Ancient Mesopotamia Cylinder Seals:sizes, designs and shapes

What types of artwork produced by the Mesopotamians?

The art of Mesopotamia includes the early usage of ceramics decorated with abstract patterns, the development of sculpted effigies for religious purposes, and the architectural styles utilized to create their elaborate temples and royal gates.The art of Mesopotamia is distinct and varied. The earliest known form of art in Mesopotamia were cylinder seals, which were tiny stone cylinders decorated in a pattern. For the masses, cylinder seals served as ownership stamps. They were also worn as jewelry or used as talismans. Because they were employed to certify cuneiform texts, cylinder seals were associated with the cuneiform writing system.

Sumer was the name given to the area that is now Iraq during the Early Bronze Age. The Ubaidians are believed to have initially settled in Sumer between 4500 and 4000 BCE, despite the fact that the oldest historical events are only thought to have occurred around 2900 BCE. They were the first to develop trade, the first to drain parts of marshes for agricultural use, and the first to engage in the diligent manufacture of brickwork, metalworks, leatherwork, and weaving. The city of Eridu, which is known as the first city in the world, bordered the Persian Gulf. The fishermen, the Semitic-speaking nomadic shepherds, and the Ubaidian farmers were three cultures that lived there and eventually fused together as a result of their shared geographic location. Those three groups were all specialists in food production which eventually led to a surplus of food that could be stored. The population grew as a result of the food excess, which necessitated the need for a labor force that could create goods, services, crafts, and works of art for the locals.




Mesopotamian art did a great job of illustrating the order of people and things. For instance, the size of persons or things indicated their status. More precisely, to grab attention and to denote prominence and dominance, pharaohs, kings, and gods were rendered larger than the other characters. As a result, the more significant gods were shown as being larger than the minor gods in paintings and household statues. The religious themes in Mesopotamian art and architecture were also very distinctive. Temples and pyramids were constructed in respect of their religious beliefs, and religious scenes were frequently represented in paintings and pictographs. Due to the scarcity of natural resources, Mesopotamian artists became more skilled at working with clay. Clay evolved as a crucial element and medium in Mesopotamian art. The majority of Mesopotamian sculptures were produced for religious and political reasons. Clay, metal, and stone were often used materials to create reliefs and spherical sculptures. The Uruk era saw a growth in rich narrative imagery and an improvement in the lifelikeness of human figures.
The art created by this civilization reflects its rich past, which was greatly affected by its social organization, military conquests, organized religion, and natural surroundings. To learn more about the craftsmanship of the people who lived in this region at the time and how it influenced cultures that came after, we examine Mesopotamian art, particularly architecture and sculpture.




  • WRITING FORM : The most famous achievement of the Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia is the invention of the cuneiform script around 3400 BC. Cuneiform is a Latin term meaning “wedge-shaped. Sumerian writing developed from pictograms but grew in sophistication and ultimately became a full-fledged writing system that could be used for creating pieces of literature as well as prayers and laws. Though it is not the oldest example of writing, cuneiform script is considered a great milestone in human history. I Cuneiform, a primitive form of written language, was created in the early Sumerian era. We may infer that there were numerous  Mesopotamian art traditions from this language as well as from other ancient Mesopotamian artifacts like pictograms. They employed the sedge-shaped written language they had created to create pottery out of clay and documents on tablets.


  • CERAMICS  Due to some technological breakthroughs like the invention of the potter’s wheel, ancient Mesopotamian arts like ceramics started to experience changes in diversity and styles around the fourth millennium BCE. While the process of creating clay by throwing it on a potter’s wheel dates back to Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BCE, the production of ceramics initially emerged from East Asia between 20,000 and 10,000 BCE. The pottery has evolved in 3 stages  :

Chalcolithic Period
The pottery made during the Ubaid era was intricately painted and was made at home on slow wheels. The ornate and abstract painting on burned clay jars, bowls, and vases made by Mesopotamian artists is known across the region.
The Empire of Akkad
Vases, jars, bowls, and several other ceramic items were still being made during the Akkadian invasion of Sumerian cities. Similar to the Pottery from the Uruk era, They were primarily unpainted, though some examples have have abstract patterns and reliefs on them. Unpainted ceramics were still being produced in more complex shapes.

Third Ur Dynasty,

The period saw ceramic works including flowerpots, cake stands, and jars made of clay for storing liquids. Additionally, clay tablet keeping track of employees, animals, wages, and other daily administrative activities might also be done on tablets.

What was the work of clay in Babylon ?

Mesopotamian Ceramics of Babylonia :
The use of abstract patterns painted on the pottery’s surface is clearly back in style during this time, and the variety of forms accessible for different uses—both functional and aesthetically pleasing—has grown significantly. There have been discoveries of ceramic jars, vases, and goblets from this time period that feature abstract painting traces on their clay exteriors.



Mesopotamian Art Relic

Painted pottery, Jemdet Nasr period, c. 3000 BCE. From Greza, Shahrizor Plain, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq;


Mesopotamian art and sculpture have been produced for political and spiritual objectives for more than 2000 years, but the ways in which these motives have been expressed have varied drastically throughout time. Mesopotamian sculpture may be traced back to the 10th millennium BCE, before human settlement and the emergence of civilization. This is according to the most current archeological studies. Animal and human figures, as well as seals with artwork and cuneiform text engraved on them, were frequent motifs.

A range of materials, including terra cotta, bronze, copper, and stones like gypsum and alabaster were used to create the sculptures. Mesopotamian art and sculpture have been produced for political and spiritual objectives for more than 2000 years, but the ways in which these motives have been expressed have varied drastically throughout time. Mesopotamian sculpture may be traced back to the 10th millennium BCE, before human settlement and the emergence of civilization. This is according to the most current archeological studies. Animal and human figures, as well as seals with artwork and cuneiform text engraved on them, were frequent motifs.

During the Early Dynastic Period of 2900 to 2400 BCE, the sculptors of art in Mesopotamia created works that built on the older traditions and developed styles that became more complex with time. Copper was now the most prominently used medium, although many artists still used stone and clay. The subject matter of sculpture during this period was focused on religion, social interaction, and war.

The arms of the sculptures depicting worshippers were positioned to imply that they were handing gifts to the gods. The statues’ construction materials varied according on their hierarchical rank, from gypsum to alabaster to limestone.

All of the human figures share the same huge hollow pupils that formerly contained stones to give them a more realistic appearance. When compared to the eyes of the gods, in particular, the eyes symbolized a considerable amount of spiritual power. One of the sculptures is made of alabaster, bitumen, limestone, shell, and the great Mesopotamian god Enil.



The Sumerian Period (~4500–1750 B.C.)

Various materials, including terra cotta, bronze, copper, and stones like gypsum and alabaster, were used to create sculptures.
For the temples, sculptures acted as decorations or tools for rituals. Despite being a cult, Although there are no known statues of gods or goddesses that were revered or worshipped for the deity they represented, some of them have recurring motifs that are worth highlighting. Male statues were often dressed in wool skirts and posed with their hands clasped in prayer. The female statues were more varied, although many of them sported a chignon and a thick coil arranged from ear to ear (hair knot at the nape of the neck). Sometimes a hat was worn to hide the hair.

Akkadian Empire   (2270 to 2154 B.C.E)

The period of the Akkadian Empire lasted from 2270 to 2154 BCE, and the sculpture of that period grew increasingly themed around war and politics, and the style grew exponentially more life-like in its representation of the human form.

The Assyrian Period (~1365–609 B.C.)

Relief carving was the main focus of sculpture during this time. One common design was “double aspect” relief, which was developed in the 14th century by the Hittites and was meant to be viewed from the front or side. These adorned the arched entrances and frequently featured human heads, bulls, or lions.mLater in the era, the brutal repression of rebellion and military conquest became prominent sculpture themes.

The Neo-Babylonian Period (~626–539 B.C.)

The Neo-Babylonian period saw a great flourishing of art, architecture, and science, particularly under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled from 604 to 562 B.C. He was a great patron of art and urban development, and rebuilt the city of Babylon to reflect its ancient glory.


Ishtar Gate in Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany.



These seals come in a variety of sizes, styles, and forms. They started to be common in the third millennium BC. Government personnel frequently utilized them for a variety of purposes, including confirming receipts and locking the door of a storage. Contracts and other documents were signed with cylinders. Cylinder seals typically ranged in size from 3 to 6 centimeters. The cylinder’s surface was intaglio-carved with a design so that, when rolled on clay, the design would be imprinted. The seals frequently have images and symbols from mythology etched on them. Both positively and negatively carved seals exist. These seals were made of both costly and semi-precious stones, including lapis lazuli, cornelian, and steatite, as well as materials like ivory, bone, and wood. The sun has risen is depicted on the royal cylinder seal, which was created in 2308 BC. The fact that cylinder seals are formed of stone is the obvious reason why they have endured.



The art of architecture was regarded by the ancient Mesopotamians as a divine gift from the gods. Because the area lacked high-quality construction stone, clay and sun-baked bricks were used to construct buildings. In addition to painted frescoes and the use of enameled tiles, pilasters and columns were frequent elements of Babylonian architecture.

The development of opulent religious architecture began during the Sumerian Period. They normally built two types of temples: ones on platforms and ones that were ground-level. At first, walled, round enclosures contained platform temples. They had spaces for priests. Those constructed at ground level were more rectangular and had cross axes for entrances. They contained an altar, an offering table, and pedestals for religious statues. Under the Amorites, Babylon’s first dynasty, it grew and became a particularly potent city-state following the fall of Sumer in roughly 1750 B.C. The statuaries that were created during this time are the most renowned pieces of art. Figures were three-dimensional and mostly realistic, and artists were experts at free-standing temples. The Statues of Gudea, a collection of about 27 statues that featured the monarch of the state of Lagash, are some of the most well-known examples (who reigned between 2144 and 2124 B.C.). The statues, which were carved primarily from diorite but also from alabaster, steatite, and limestone, were regarded at the time as representing the highest degree of craftsmanship.

Residential Design
In the early days of Mesopotamian civilization, each family member was responsible for building their own homes. Most homes were constructed using mud bricks, reeds, and wooden doors. The only openings in the shelter would be the door because windows are often load-bearing in dwellings.

In Sumerian society, there was a clear distinction between public and private life, therefore relatively few interiors of dwellings could be seen from the street. The size of the houses varied according on family size and social standing, but the overall structure remained the same, with the area being divided up into one huge central chamber and smaller rooms erected surrounding it.

Every notable ancient civilisation experienced a period during which they produced enormous monuments, as seen by Egypt, ancient sites in South America, and even Asia. The creation of their ziggurat buildings was one of the most amazing feats accomplished by the Mesopotamian people. Ziggurats, which are terraced steps with descending levels and were constructed by piling and stacking very huge pieces of stone, are comparable to pyramids. Typically, a temple or shrine would be located at the summit of the steps of a ziggurat. Priests and other religious authorities were only permitted to enter these exquisite specimens of Mesopotamian architecture for the purpose of presenting gifts and performing temple maintenance; they were not accessible to the general people for worship or visits. The Sumerian civilisation developed the earliest surviving examples of ziggurat building around the fourth millennium BCE. From the fourth millennium BCE to the early second millennium BCE, the ziggurat style was a frequently utilized architectural form. The Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat, constructed around 1250 BC, is a stunning illustration of ziggurat design. Elamite king Napirisha erected it as a tribute to Inshushinak, a deity.

Political Structure
Public structures in Mesopotamia, such palaces and temples, were lavishly painted on the outside with embellishments like enameling, gold leaf, and vivid paint colors. Terra cotta panels and colored stones, for example, were employed to both strengthen and postpone the deterioration of public structures, as well as to decorate them. Many materials served multiple purposes. Between the 13th and 10th century BCE, durable masonry, such as stone, became more frequently used as Assyrians used it to replace the sun-baked bricks. The complexity and size of palaces increased dramatically between 2900 BCE (Early Dynastic period) and 612 BCE (Assyrian Empire period). However, despite their size and ornate design, these early palaces were still significantly larger than residential houses.Temples, sanctuaries, and locations to bury and lodge the deceased were among these enormous constructions. In order to promote ventilation and temperature control, architects built a courtyard to these spaces, which is similar to the domestic structures’ construction. These courtyards would serve both practical needs and as places for ceremonies. Palaces started having their own gates installed under the Assyrian Empire’s rule, and narrative reliefs were heavily embellished on the walls. The alto relief on the entrance gate of the Palace of Dur-Sharrukin is a superb example of this design. The Sargon II palace entrance was decorated with a representation of the mythical Lamassu, a creature with a bull’s body, enormous wings, and a man’s head.. Other representations of this deity have conical hats and their heads are turned forward. In other representations, the deity takes on a female appearance, and occasionally the physique is that of a lion rather than a bull. These mythical creatures, also known as Shedu, first appeared in Mesopotamian literature and art around 5500 BCE and can be seen guarding the palace of Persepolis around 550 BCE.

What Mesopotamian Art Styles Are Most Popular Today?
The art of Mesopotamia includes everything from the earliest ceramics, which were decorated with abstract patterns, to sculptures made for religious effigies, as well as the architectural styles utilized to build the elaborate temples and palace gates. Although sculpture and carving were popular, the earliest art supplies were clay tablets and reed carving tools. Since drawing tools were not available, there are no examples of Mesopotamian drawings.

  • ART    : Decorative art and painting found in Mesopotamia were in forms of ornamental purposes, murals frequently replaced reliefs. Additionally, furniture was included in Assyrian palaces, and a significant number of ivory ornaments have been found. Relief panels, inlays, and other ornamental elements were used to beautify furniture, and to further improve its opulence, the ornamentation was enhanced with gold and other precious metals. Painting was used as wall art, although little survives, and for creating painted pottery. Predominant colors include red, white, and blue. Themes include people, worship, animals, and geometrical patterns.

Other than that “The Code of Hammurabi  ” was the most important piece of art produced during the Babylonian period and the earliest law code ever written. This stele made from basalt and carved in relief sculpture is incised with text. There are 300 laws, inscribed in the Akkadian language, in cuneiform script. The work also depicts images of King Hammurabi, the ruler during the Babylonian period, with the sun god and god of justice, Shamash, on his left. The figures are shown in twisted perspective with a Hierarchy of scale.

Three major cities were constructed during the Assyrian empire giving rise to new Mesopotamian art. These included Kalhu, Dur Sharrukin, and Nineveh, all designed with architecture and art depicting most notably the hunting of wild animals, ceremonies, and war. The Persians created the largest empire during the Achaemenid dynasty, the scope of which began in Iran and stretched to ancient Egypt. The region where the empire stretched became multicultural, thus art also developed and art was influenced by both Egypt and Greece.


  • Jewelers

    Fine jewelry was a status symbol in Ancient Mesopotamia. Both men and women wore jewelry. Jewelers used fine gemstones, silver, and gold to make intricate designs. They made all sorts of jewelry including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.Mesopotamian jewelry from antiquity stands out from all other ancient jewelry in some way. That something extends beyond a unique taste or fashion sense. The history of Mesopotamian jewelry is interesting because it had a significant role in the development of each civilisation that emerged in the region between the two rivers. When the Sumerians got their hands on it around 2750 BC, the idea of jewelry wasn’t new, but because to their advancements, the jewelry they produced from that time until the Assyrian period, approximately 1200 BC, appeared to be a whole new invention. It should go without saying that ancient Mesopotamia, jewelry served as a prestige symbol for royalty, nobility, and other social classes. At the royal cemetery, queen Pu-abi was one of the royals buried with hers.

When was jewelry made in Mesopotamia?
Jewelry from ancient Mesopotamia as seen in the image. Mesopotamian culture, which was centered on the Tigris and Euphrates riverbeds, began emphasizing jewelry around 4000 years ago, initially in the towns of Sumer and Akkad where this craft attracted a lot of attention.

How did people in Mesopotamia create jewelry?

It was created by pouring metal into two clay or stone molds. Wax was then poured into the center, followed by molten metal, and the two pieces were then welded together. Since the late Bronze Age, this method had been used. The hammered sheet kind of jewelry was the more popular style.

What material did Sumerian jewelry consist of?
The enormous trade that took place at that period is exemplified by the gold and silver that were likely brought from mines in modern-day Turkey and Iran, the lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and the carnelian from India utilized in Sumerian jewelry.

Which ornaments wore the Mesopotamians?
Copper, gold, silver, and electrum were the primary metals used in Mesopotamian jewelry. They were also combined with less common gemstones such agate, carnelian, chalcedony, crystal, jasper, lapis lazuli (which was valued higher than any other material, even gold), onyx, and sardonyx. Pearls and shells were also employed.


  • Carpenters

    In Ancient Mesopotamia, carpenters played an essential role as artisans. The most significant pieces were constructed from imported wood, such cedar from Lebanon. They used cedar to construct the kings’ palaces. Additionally, they built ships to sail the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and chariots for use in battle. Inlays were used to embellish many exquisite wooden objects. They would use tiny bits of metal, glass, shell, and jewel to create stunning, gleaming ornaments for things like musical instruments, furniture, and sacred objects.


What impact does Mesopotamia have on us today?
In the 1960s, even producing and counting beer was a science. Writing, algebra, medicine, libraries, roads, tamed animals, spoked wheels, the zodiac, astronomy, looms, and plows were also part of society (kinda handy when telling time). These are only a handful of the notions and theories that Mesopotamia came up with.
The world’s biggest contribution from Mesopotamia is its mathematical and time-keeping scholastic heritage. Tablets with multiplication and division tables, square and square-root tables, and tables of compound interest date to around 1800 BCE. They created one of the oldest forms of writing, the first comprehensive legal code, the first towns in the world, and are credited with creating the wheel and the chariot.

Its history is marked by many important inventions that changed the world, including the concept of time, math, the wheel, sailboats, maps and writing. Mesopotamia is also defined by a changing succession of ruling bodies from different areas and cities that seized control over a period of thousands of years