Different from the depicted scenes presented on cylinder seals, where religious meanings and particular associations with certain deities are clearly expressed through repeatedly occurring motifs and stereotyped combinations, scenes shown on Early Dynastic stone vases reveal more significance when linked to each other and analysed as a whole group. It is rare that simple geometric lines presented in solo on Mesopotamian glyphic arts, suggesting this jar might have imitated the plain borders used in dividing vertical narrative scenes on tall vessels. Based on the limited evidence shown on cylinder seals, a scorpion’s meaning might alter from being a characteristic portrayal of the goddess Inanna, to suggesting protection or fertility (when presented with herds). Bull-men and scorpion-men rarely appear together on cylinder seals, and their standing amid greenery further increases the uniqueness of this scene. Based on the visual evidence from Uruk and earlier cylinder seals, the fertility god Dumuzid’s presence has always been suggested by felines, bulls, sheep, barley and un-bearded priests holding a bundle of leaves or barley. The motifs presented on this jar, including the ‘tree of life’, a lion, felines, a bull-man, a scorpion-man, barley, and a dedicated priest, are characters not only suggesting fertility, but that had a close association with Dumuzid. Dumuzid was not only a fertility god but also a personification of resurrection. The whole body of this very finely modelled alabaster jar is conveyed within a single, unbroken outline, highlighting the simplified aesthetic appeal renowned in Early Dynastic glyphic arts. Its significant religious scenes suggest that it might have been used as a dedicated libation offering, gifted to the fertility god Dumuzid by an Early Dynastic secular ruler, within a funeral cult context.
Early Dynastic Alabaster Jar Dedicated to the Fertility God Dumuzid
A finely sculpted Early Dynastic alabaster cultic jar, featuring a smooth, curved contour accentuated by precise and neatly executed carving lines. A globular body, with slightly convex walls, elegantly rises from a flat base, then gradually narrows into a short neck with sloping sides. A deep groove is emphasised, with the sloping neck tapering into an everted opening with a widened and flattened lip. The religious scenes, presented on the body with detailed engravings, are evenly divided into three pictorial sections on a bordered, horizontal register. Each scene is further separated by a carved ridge that slightly protrudes from the highly ornamented surface. On the left side, two short, horizontal lines are incised against the empty, milky alabaster background. A significant scene, presented in the centre, depicts a standing bull-man and a scorpion-man being flanked by a thin barley stern in a symmetrical composition. Both the bull-man and the scorpion-man are naturalistically portrayed, with much recourse to realistic derails. The bull-man features a bison head and a muscular body. Facing him, and standing in a solemn pose, is a bearded scorpion-man whose human upper torso is supported by his long scorpion tail expressed through oval globules with circled incisions inside. A pear-shaped vesicle with a sharp tip terminates his tail at an elegant angle. The scorpion-man’s arms are raised, each hand holding an object that resembles an ear of corn, mirroring bull-man’s hands that held on the top of the barley stern. A miniature human figure, seemingly wearing a robe, is depicted standing behind the bull-man. On the other side, a wider cultic scene is symmetrical with a naturalistically depicted tree of life. A robed priest, standing on the back of a recumbent feline, mirrors the other squatting feline on a recumbent lion opposite. A crescent and a seven-pointed star are flanked by the top of the tree of life at both sides. The deity’s hands are presented held in front of his chest, in which a quadruped might have been indented.
Provenance: From an important family collection inherited in the 1980's, kept by descent by members of the family.
Condition: Extremely fine condition, with minor chips to the edge.
|Dimensions||W 7.3 x H 5.8 cm|
Near East (Western Asiatic)