Contest frieze with bull-men, lion-headed eagle, lion, horned animal

between 2700 B.C. and 2500 B.C.
white marble
29 x 23.5 mm
Morgan Seal 57
Acquired by Pierpont Morgan sometime between 1885 and 1908.

"The same desire for balanced composition determined the postures of the individual animals and humans in the frieze. The forms of the reversed animals in 53-55, 57, 58,... balance the outlines of the uprights heroes and rampant animals... Though the composite monsters of 57-59 may be mythological, it is possible that the merging of human and animal forms derived from a desire of the artist to maintian the essential symmetry and compactness of the composition as a whole... Frequently, as in 53, 55-57 ,the human heroes are joined in their fight by a bull-man, who makes his first appearance in this age. It was thought by earlier Assyriologists that this bull-man could be identified with Enkidu, the friend of the epic hero Gilgamesh, while Gilgamesh himself was identified with the nude bearded hero with curls." Porada, CANES, p. 9-10


Lion-headed eagle merged with reversed human, between two bull-men (in profile), one grasping reversed horned animal, which is menaced by lion that is in turn attacked by bull-man who initiates scene.

Southern Mesopotamia.