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Western Asiatic Seals

Reprinted by permission from "Artifacts of Ancient Civilizations" by Alex G. Malloy

Among the most popular Western Asiatic collectibles are seals. They exemplify the culture represented in fine detail in the miniature. The stamp seals are the most reasonably priced, but are simple in design. The amuletic animal seals are often found in fine quality. The cylinder seals are the best examples of Western Asiatic art. Care must be taken to know the process of manufacture and the styles within the cultures, if one is to avoid purchasing fakes. A series of serpentine cylinder seals with erotic scenes has appeared on the market in the last five years, and they are all false. Finding re-cut seals is not uncommon. This practice was done from dynasty to dynasty. The difficulty lies in identifying modern re-cutting practices. Newly cut stone will usually have sharpness to it, and will lack apparent wear to the material cut.

A guide to stylistic development of Glyptic art found on cylinder and stamp seals follows:

Prehistoric
1) Animal, 2) Geometric patterns

Uruk Period:
1) Animal rows, 2) Pigtail figures, 3) Geometric patterns

Late Uruk Period:
1) Animal rows, 2) Patterns including geometric cross-hatching zigzags and herringbones

Jamdat Nasr:
1) Animal rows, 2) Geometric patterns

Early Dynastic:
1) Animal rows, 2) Figures with animals, 3) Combat scenes, 4) Ritual banquets, 5) Decorative animal motifs

Akkadian:
1) Combat scenes, 2) Mythological scenes with sun and water gods, 3) Worship scenes and banquets

Ur III:
1) Presentations to a deity, 2) Presentations to a king

Old Babylonian:
1) Presentations scenes, 2) Sun god and scimitar god, 3) Figure with mace, 4) Water god, 5) God with crook, 6) Suppliant goddess, 7) Nude female facing, 8) Combat scenes

Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian:
1) Contest scenes, 2) Real animals, 3) Imaginary animals, 4) Hunting scenes, 5) Banquet scenes, 6) Worship of deities, 7) Deities in combat, 8) Worship of dieties, 9) War scenes: a) linear style, b) cut style, c) drill style, d) modeled style

Achaemenid:
1) Kneeling archer, 2) Royal hero, 3) Animal scenes

Syrian (Early):
1) Working figures, 2) Animals, 3) Patterns

Syrian (Middle):
1) Banquet, 2) Human figures with animals

Syrian (Late):
1) Figures with round cap, 2) Seated figures, 3) Deity scenes, 4) Mesopotamian deities, 5) Egyptian deities, 6) Heroes against animals and demons, 7) Rituals, 8) Decorative

Mitannian:
1) Ritual, 2) Deities and figures, 3) Deities with humans, 4) Winged sun disc, 5) Animals

Elamite:
1) Geometric