4. Achaemenid Agate Cylinder Seal, 1900.53.0052A, Persian Period c. 5th-4th centuries B.C.E.
This is another roll-out image of a cylinder seal in the Spurlock Collection (see no. 3), showing three Magi, or Zoroastrian priests. Each Magus holds a bundle of sticks, and all rest upon a winged sun-disk. Note how the artist has used the pattern in the agate stone to form an apex with the sun-disk. The image at the top shows a 360 degree rollout of the cylinder seal, the bottom left a conventional photograph, and the bottom right an image of a seal impression captured using Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) technology, developed by Hewlett-Packard Imaging Labs, with specular enhancement. A PTM image is created by taking many digital photographs, each from a different light angle. The images are then combined using special software, the result being an image in which one can view an object from any light angle. For the undergraduate research project on cylinder seals (see no. 3) the students had access to imagery never before employed in the study of these important cultural objects—and hence they were able to examine and analyze them at a level of detail that can lead to important discoveries (for an example, see no. 5).
Photograph by Bruce Zuckerman, Marilyn Lundberg and Wayne Pitard, West Semitic Research. Courtesy Spurlock Museum, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.