Evolution of the Cylinder Seal

For my main focus I want to look at Cylinder Seals. I think they are really an amazing development in history. The First developments were scratches that identified basic information about taxes and crops. These were mostly found on clay tablets. After more and more developments the writing evolved into what we now call cuneiform. At the bottom of the tablets we would start seeing what we would consider a signature, only it was before signatures were developed yet. The early mesopotamians developed the seal so that instead of always having to etch in the "signature" the owner of the document could just roll out the seal. It was more efficient this way.

How Cylinder Seals are made

Main Entry: in·ta·glio Pronunciation: \in-ˈtal-(ˌ)yō, -ˈtäl-; -ˈta-glē-ˌō, -ˈtä-\Function: nounInflected Form(s): plural in·ta·gliosEtymology: Italian, from intagliare to engrave, cut, from Medieval Latin intaliare, from Latin in- + Late Latin taliare to cut — more at tailorDate: 1644
1 a : an engraving or incised figure in stone or other hard material depressed below the surface so that an impression from the design yields an image in relief b : the art or process of executing intaglios c : printing (as in die stamping and gravure) done from a plate in which the image is sunk below the surface

Political Economy in Early Mesopotamian States
Norman Yoffee
Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 24, (1995), pp. 281-311
Published by: Annual Reviews
JSTOR Annual Review of Anthropology

First sentence: "The floodplains along the Nile constitute an important but as yet little utilized series of laboratories for comparative study of the origins and interaction of ancient civilization."
Source: “Kerma: The Rise of an African Civilization,” Bruce G. Trigger, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1. (1976), pp. 1-21.

Seal and Imprint:

The bottom 2 Pictures is the Seal on the Left; and the imprint that it leaves on the Right
external image cylinderseals.jpg
external image MorganExpansion_12.jpg

Cylinder Seals:

The following 2 cylinder seals appear to have animals and deities etched into the seals
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external image seal.gif

Why Cylinder Seals

Besides the obvious questions and answers of what a cylinder seal is, this section is going to attempt to answer the question "Why Cylinder Seals?" Why did the early Mesopotamians of the Uruk period develop their early seals. It can be interesting to see if there was something in the material culture of the time that lead from just a stamp into a cylinder that you rolled out an impression with. There is also some examples that after the impression of the cylinder seal was rolled out, there was writing etched into it. This goes on to signify that writing and the cylinder stamps were being developed at the same time.

This is an image showing some of the ancient ruins of Mesopotamia and a sketch-up of Ur. A site among many found in Ancient Mesopotamia where the first cylinder seals could have been found.

external image cylGodboat.gif Early Mesopotamia: society and economy at the dawn of history
By: J. N. Postgate
This Article is full of information about the early periods of Mesopotamia from the perspective of how things were for people living at the time by looking at the society and economy. It takes the artifacts and ruins found and uses them to give an explanation of how things were. What is great about it is it talks about in detail, roughly 18 different times about cylinder seals and depicts in detail what is happening on the cylinder seals. Ranging from talking about new kings, to talking about the common activities of the Gods.