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Middle or Neo-Assyrian Hardstone Stamp Seal with Snake Motif

Middle or Neo-Assyrian Hardstone Stamp Seal with Snake Motif

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The Middle Assyrian Empire or early Neo-Assyrian Empire, c. 1300-900 BC, Ancient Near East.

Exceptional, finely engraved Assyrian stamp seal of domed shape made from reddish brown polished hardstone. Carved on the flat side is an S-shaped serpent figure, composed of of delicately incised geometric lines. The seal is horizonally perforated for suspension, suggesting its owner might have also worn it as an ornament. Such seals were often personal items, carrying great meaning for the owner, and were used to sign and seal documents, ensuring their authenticity and security.

The Middle Assyrian Empire (c. 1363-912 BC) was the third stage of Assyrian history, covering the history of Assyria from the accession of Ashur-uballit I and the rise of Assyria as a territorial kingdom to the death of Ashur-dan II. The Neo-Assyrian Empire (912-612 BCE) was the final stage of the Assyrian Empire that succeeded two earlier phases of Assyrian history in the second millennium BC; the Old Assyrian and Middle Assyrian periods. Known for their incredible military strength, technological innovation, and sophisticated government, the Neo-Assyrians created the largest empire the world had seen at that time. Beginning with the reign of Adad Nirari II (912-891 BC), the empire made great territorial expansions that resulted in its eventual control of a region which spanned the whole of Mesopotamia, part of Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt, and into parts of Persia and Arabia. The city of Ashur continued to be important as the ancient and religious capital, but the Assyrian kings also founded and expanded other cities. Assyria was at the height of its power, but continual difficulties controlling Babylonia would soon develop into a major conflict. At the end of the seventh century, the Assyrian empire collapsed under the attack of Babylonians from southern Mesopotamia and Medes, immigrants who were to establish a kingdom in Iran.

Excellent condition. Intact. Age-related smooth wear. Mineral deposits. Size approx. 1,5cm x 1,3cm x 1,3cm.

Provenance: Ex SM collection London, England, acquired in 1970's.

References and further reading:

Selves Engraved on Stone: Seals and Identity in the Ancient Near East, ca. 1415–1050, Serdar Yalçın, BCE Series: Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, Volume: 129, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2022. (

Neo-Assyrian Empire, Joshua J. Mark, World History Encyclopedia. Last modified June 30, 2014. (

The Imperialisation of Assyria: An Archaeological Approach, Bleda S. Düring, Cambridge University Press, 30 Jan 2020.

Neo-Assyrian History, ArcGIS StoryMaps, 14 May 2020. (

Assyria, 1365–609 B.C., Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. Originally published October 2004, last revised April 2010. (

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