4957 (41) Red Chalcedony Cylinder Seal, Southern Mesopotamia: Neo-Babylonian Period, ca. 800-600 B.C. This seal is composed of both a pictorial design and an inscription. The scene is of a robed genius with four wings grasping two birds by their legs and standing with his foot on a third. The stance of the genius is reminiscent of the victorious hero standing with his foot on the neck of an enemy. Whether a particular conflict between well-defined antagonists such as Heracles and the Styphalian birds in the Greek epics or a general conflict between evil spirits and protective genii is embodied in this composition is difficult to ascertain. The seal inscription contains a prayer for its owner. ‘For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare so are the sons of men snared in an evil time…’ Ecclesiates 9:12.
Photograph by Zev Radovan