Contest frieze with water buffalo and nude bearded hero; bull-man and lion

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between 2340 B.C. and 2150 B.C.
greenish-black serpentine
36 x 25 (24) mm
Morgan Seal 159
Acquired by Pierpont Morgan sometime between 1885 and 1908.

"In the seals of mature Akkad style, the theme of contest between heroes and beasts is embodied in two pairs of fighting figures flanking a central design or the panel of an inscription. A characteristic detail of the resulting rather formal composition is the lozenge effect produced by the arms of the fighters and the legs of their victims. The nude bearded hero and the bull-man are the most common protagonists in these contests, but figures attired like human huntsmen often take the place of the nude bearded hero (165) or of both fighters (166, 169). In other instances two identical bull-men (167) or nude bearded heroes (168) are represented. Water buffaloes and lions are the most frequent opponents of the heros. In these seals of mature Akkad style, lions are almost always shown in profile. The scene of 170, showing a figure pouring a libation beside the two fighting pairs, is exceptional." Porada, CANES, p. 22


Water buffalo subdued by nude bearded hero --Bull-man fighting lion -- Between contestant pairs, tree on knoll.