A Lion-Headed Eagle

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dark-grey steatite
Overall: 1 3/16 × 11/16 in. (3 × 1.7 cm)
The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
Morgan Seal 267

The beautifully incised inscription on this unique cylinder was incorporated into the design to frame the composition. It relates that the seal was created for a man who was a minor official and scribe of a purification priest of the goddess Shara. This was probably at the ancient Southern Mesopotamian city of Lagash, where Shara was the consort of the chief god, Ningursu, and where the lion-headed eagle was a favored image. The delicately worked wings of the majestic lion-headed eagle give the impression that they are spreading open.

Acquired by Pierpont Morgan sometime between 1885 and 1908

"Seals 264-266, each of which presents a frieze with an eagle in the center, are characterized as Post-Akkad stones by their deeply incised engraving. Moreover, the eagle in 264 and 265 corresponds with a similar figure in Berlin 247, a seal showing in its lower register the birds found to be distinctive of Post-Akkad cylinders (258, 260). Of this group, 267 is the only seal that shows a continuation of Akkad style. It is included here because of its Sumerian inscription, which is typically Post-Akkad. The subject of the seal, a lion-headed eagle clutching animals, is an Early Dynastic theme found especially on the monuments of Lagash, where it still persisted in Post-Akkad times. For example, the theme is treated in a manner similar to that of this seal, but with lions replacing the ibexes, on a stele of Gudea, a ruler of Lagash in the latter part of the Post-Akkad period. It seems possible, therefore, that 267 was made at Lagash in or about the time of Gudea." Porada, CANES, p. 32


Lion-headed eagle clutching hindquarters of two ibexes -- Terminal: inscription.