Sumerian Seals

Sumer may very well be the first civilization in the world, although long term settlements at Jericho predate Sumer and examples of writing from Egypt and the Harappa, Indus valley sites may predate those from Sumer. From its beginnings as a collection of farming villages around 5000 BC, through its conquest by Sargon of Agade around 2370 BC, and its final collapse under the Amorites around 2000 BCE, the Sumerians developed a religion and a society which influenced both their neighbors and their conquerors. The Babylonians, who also took many of their religious beliefs, borrowed Sumerian cuneiform, the earliest written language. In fact, traces and parallels of Sumerian myth can be found in Genesis.

Cylinder seals were pressed into wet clay to leave an impression of the design in order to seal vessels, consignments of goods and the door latches of storerooms so that it could be ascertained whether the contents had been tampered with. They were usually made of red jasper, black steatite, and green stone and various other stones. The designs were standing male figures, gypsum seated worshipper in a calf-length woolen skirt, animals, birds with outspread wings, male figures leading a horned animal, animals leaping and prancing, animals in combat, rearing animals, and running animals.

The Sumerians also used clay cones. Foundation deposits took many forms and inscribed clay cones and nails were often placed in the corners and under entrance halls, the inscriptions naming the king and deity to whom the sanctuary was being dedicated.

The Sumerians also had their gods and goddesses. Ishtar was the most important female deity of ancient Mesopotamia. Her Sumerian name, Inanna, is believed to have derived from a presumed Nin-ana, Lady of Heaven.

People in the ancient Near East created seals around 3000 BC. They are small devices usually made of stone with a design or image carved onto the surface. The early seals were “stamp seals” And had one or more flat sides depicting a design. By 3200 BC, seals were made in cylinder form that permitted the seal to be rolled over wet clay to product a continuous image or frieze. The primary use of seals was to designate ownership. They were impressed on the clay that sealed storage jars and on lumps of clay wrapped around ropes securing bales of goods. When the clay hardened, the impression became a permanent record, a sign of ownership.