3. Early Dynastic III Serpentine Cylinder Seal, 1900.53.0112A, c. 2500-2350 B.C.E.
Cylinder Seals are small objects carved from stone or shell, about the size of a AAA battery, up to a size D battery. They were used much like a signet ring in the Middle Ages, or a credit card today, in that they were rolled across clay tablets to verify a person’s participation in an economic transaction. In other words, they were the ancient equivalent of a signed charge card. West Semitic Research has developed a way to photograph cylinder seals as 360 degree rollouts—a panoramic photograph in reverse. This seal has a winged figure holding an object, and two crossed lions attacking two antelopes. It is one of a collection of seals at the Spurlock Museum, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and is currently serving, along with the rest of the collection as the basis of an inter-university undergraduate research project involving some 40 students in three different classes.
Photograph by Bruce Zuckerman, Marilyn Lundberg and Wayne Pitard, West Semitic Research. Courtesy Spurlock Museum, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.