Cylinder Seal with Ninurta

Illustration

Ibolya Horvath
by The Trustees of the British Museum
published on 01 February 2017

Grey or brown chalcedony cylinder seal in the modelled style; a bearded god (Ninurta), wearing a square, star-topped, horned head-dress and a vertically striated, tiered, fringed open robe over a fringed kilt, with a star-tipped crossed bow-cases on his back, a sword at his belt, and a sickle-sword hanging from his right arm, draws a star-studded bow and aims an arrow at a rampant lion-griffin. He strides towards the right on the back of a charging, scorpion-tailed lion-griffin, resting one foot on its bull's horns and the other on one of its hind-legs; it has lion's paws and from its jaws issues a triple-forked tongue or, more probably, the end of the thunderbolt with which the god has defeated it. The rampant lion-griffin flees towards the right but looks back towards the pursuing god; it has prickled ears rather than a horn, and no evidence of a tongue, outstretched lion's forelegs with claws extended, spread wings and a bird's tail, hind legs and talons; on either side of its head are the Pleiades (or seven dots symbol of the Sibitti group of deities) and the crescent. A subsidiary scene has been inserted at the end of the main scene. A small, bearded worshipper, wearing a fringed robe, stands facing right, points with his raised right hand and extends the other. Behind him is a slightly curved, vertical ball-and-staff and in front of him, facing left is a small dog, sitting on its haunches; at a higher level, also facing left, sits the goddess Gula, wearing a square, star-topped, horned head-dress and a vertically-striated, tiered, fringed robe; she holds a scapel in her raised right hand and a beaded ring in the other. Her star-backed chair (throne?), with elaborately-turned legs and double stretchers, rests on the back of a couchant dog with curled tail. Line borders at top and bottom. Some small chips.

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