Griffin in grasp of griffin-demon

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between 1200 B.C. and 1000 B.C.
milky chalcedony
42 x 16.5 mm
Morgan Seal 608
Acquired by Pierpont Morgan sometime between 1885 and 1908.

"In 607 and 608, both of which picture a bull calf lying between two contestants, the composition is more formal. The scheme used here--that of two fighting figures with a third between them--was preserved in Neo-Babylonian seals of the first millennium... but discarded by Neo-Assyrian seal cutters. As to the significance of the unusual scene of 608, it may be mentioned that Assyrian texts refer to a divine bull as the son of Shamash, the sun god. Furthermore, Frankfort has interpreted the griffin as the equivalent of the angel of death and the griffin-demon as its antithesis--the latter having potency to ward off the griffin, since it is equipped with the most characteristic features of its monstruous and evil opponent. The scene in 608 may therefore symbolize a struggle between the forces of life and death, in which the imperiled bull stands for a manifestation of the sun. ". Porada, CANES, p. 70


Griffin poised in menace over kneeling calf and held by foreleg in grasp of griffin-demon armed with dagger.

Southern Mesopotamia.