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Middle Assyrian Chalcedony Cylinder Seal with a Lion-Dragon, 1300-1200 BC

Combining zoomorphic elements, this lively composition shows a fierce lion-dragon, the gaping mouth exposing long pointed teeth, the head is turned slightly to show horns on the top of the head.

This has the image of Ashur* chief god of Assyria, on a winged solar disc facing a scorpion-tailed lion-dragon**. Above the lion-dragon is a recumbent crescent moon, a symbol of Sin, the moon god and alongside it is an eight-pointed star which represents the goddess Ishtar. Next are seven dots representing the Sebittu, seven benevolent gods whose power could be harnessed against evil by means of magic incantation. Astrologically these dots were identified with the Pleiades. There were temples dedicated to the Sebbitu at the Assyrian cities of Kalhu (Nimrud), Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad) and Nineveh.

A Chalcedony Cylinder Seal of a Lion-Dragon, Middle Assyrian, 1300 – 1200 BC

*The god in the winged sun disc could also be Shamash, the sun god. Scholars are not all in agreement over which god is being represented within the winged sun disc in Assyrian art. Ashur is an indistinct deity with no clear iconography of his own. When he is represented in art his attributes tend to be borrowed from another god (in this case Shamash), which makes it difficult to definitively identify him. 

**The lion-dragon is a beast which could be a reference to either the chief Assyrian god Ashur, the moon god Sin or the storm god Adad.

Background: A period of cultural flowering and exchange developed in Mesopotamia after a dark age that followed the destruction of Babylon in 1595 B.C. The emergence of the Assyrians as a political power in northern Mesopotamia during the fourteenth century B.C foreshadowed the ascendancy that culminated in the world empire of the first millennium B.C. That phase of history, which falls into the latter half of the second millennium B.C., is called the Middle Assyrian period to distinguish it from the Old Assyrian period (early part of the second millennium B.C.) and from the Neo-Assyrian period (first third of the first millennium B.C.).

Twiggie Truth, 2016

Sources

Sands of Time, Ancient Art

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