عنوان مقاله [English]
Seals and sealings are important artifacts which are used to mark personal property and to limit access to main commodities in administrative institutions from their first appearance in the Late Neolithic period, therefore, they are significant resources for socio-economic history of ancient societies. However, these artifacts, especially those with no clear and well-stratified context, are usually studied in an art historical approach. Keydan cylinder seal (KCS) is one of these artifacts which was discovered in the 1996 archaeological survey in the Silakhor Plain in Borujerd region. One of the villagers gave it to the director of the survey and claimed that it has been found on the surface of Tepe Keydan. The seal shows a Mesopotamian contest scene. Previously, 10 contest scene have been found in the Central Zagros. KCS is the easternmost contest seal found in the region. This paper tries to study style and iconography of KCS as well as relevant archaeological evidence and textual hints in order to answer some questions about the dating of KCS and origins, contexts, reasons of appearance, and functions of such seals in the Central Zagros region. Thus, KCS has been dated to ED III. Considering archaeological and textual data, it could probably be dated to ED III b. It has been suggested that the Zagros contest seals have been cut in Mesopotamia and/or Susa and appeared in the Central Zagros in different ways for instance through looting in wars, moving people between the two regions such as those Elamite warriors who would have been hired by Mesopotamian armies or most importantly through trade. These seals as their Mesopotamian counterparts could have been related to local political, economic and military elites. Some of these seals might have been used to seal objects to mark personal property or to limit access to main commodities in an administrative context.
KCS was discovered in the 1996 archaeological survey in the Silakhor Plain, in Borujerd region. One of the habitant of Keydan village gave it to the survey team and claimed that it originated from Tepe Keydan, which is surrounded with the houses of the villagers. It is depicted with a scene of animal contest. Until now, more than 10 comparable cylinder seals found in Pish-i Kuh and Pusht-i Kuh Luristan have been published. These seals show a Mesopotamian theme known as contest or combat scene which is one of the main subjects of the ED glyptic art of Southern Mesopotamia. Previously, the presence of such seals in the Central Zagros thought to be limited to the west of Sefid Kuh, especially the Pusht-i Kuh (Haerinck and Overlaet 2006, 51), but KCS proved that they could be found in the East Central Zagros as well. It seems reasonable to integrate these evidence and assess the context, function and reasons of appearance of the seals in the Central Zagros. In this article, I have studied the style and iconography of KCS, dated the seal and tried to interpret the Central Zagros contest seals in the socio-political and cultural context of Western Iran and Mesopotamia in the Third Millennium B.C.
Contest Cylinder Seals in the Central Zagros
All of the contest cylinder seals of the Central Zagros have been found in Luristan. Six of them are found in communal graves in Pusht-i Kuh, four seals at Bani Surmah, dated to ED III (Tourovets 1996: 30-39; Haerinck and Overlaet 2006, 51-55, fig. 28, A 14-65, A 14-67, A 2-24, A 2-25), and two seals at Kalleh Nisar, dated to ED III and Akkadian period (Tourovets 1994: 13-22; Haerinck and Overlaet 2008, 50, fig. 24, C 12-14, C12-15). The Pusht-i Kuh seals are suggested to be of Mesopotamian manufacture (Haerinck and Overlaet 2006: 51; Haerinck and Overlaet 2008: 48). There are also four contest seals mostly of Akkadian period style found in a later context (probably Middle Elamite) in the sanctuary of Surkh Dum-i Luri in Pish-i Kuh Luristan (Schmidt et al 1989, pl. 132, n. 12, 13, 14, 18; Roach 2008: 683-95). It is not an unknown phenomenon that seals would be found in a later context than the one in which they have been cut, because they were precious items and could be inherited through several generation as heirloom (Collon 1990: 19, 24). KCS is the easternmost contest seal found in the Central Zagros, unfortunately, without any clear archaeological context. The crucial question here is why and in which socio-political and cultural setting the contest seals appeared in the Central Zagros?
KCS and Its Dating
KCS could be dated to ED III (2600-2400 B.C.) in terms of style and iconography and many parallels from Susa, southern Mesopotamia and the Central Zagros (Frankfort 1955, pl. 24. no. 247, pl. 39. Nos. 417, 418; Ibid, pl. 52, no, 553, pl. 60, no. 631; Woolley 1934, pl. 196, no. 49, pl. 198, no. 68; Roach 2008, nos. 2055, 2056; Legrain 1951, n. 140; Amiet 1980, pl. 84, no. 1114; Roach 2008, n. 1998), but one cannot specify based on these evidence whether ED IIIa (2600-2450 B.C.) or ED IIIb (2450-2350 B.C). The chronology of Tepe Keydan could not enable us to elaborate the dating, because first of all, our information of the dating of the site is limited to the surface pottery sherds of 1996 survey, namely a few pottery fragments of Godin III:2, Parthian and Islamic era, second of all, there is no way to confidently distinguish between pottery of the Godin III different phases, which is a continuous pottery tradition differentiated mostly through architectural remains through few pottery sherds, and finally, even if we had a clear chronology of the site, we could not attribute it to the KCS, because as mentioned earlier, seals could be found in a period other than their manufacture time (Collon 1990: 19, 24). However, assessing archaeological data of the region and textual evidence may help us to date the seal more accurately.
Contemporary to the ED of southern Mesopotamia Godin III:6-5 culture spread over the Central Zagros. Based on architectural remains the Godin III culture has been divided into six periods/phases Godin III:6-1 covering about a millennium (about 2600-1500 B.C) (Henrickson 1986). Godin III:6 formerly had been dated to 2600-2400 B.C. based on correlation of its pottery with Chogha Maran red-slipped ware (which then thought to be of ED II/III because it was associated with clay sealings then dated to ED II/III), Susa IV (Dc-d) and presence of the Godin III:6 potteries in southern Mesopotamian cities such as Ur, Girsu and especially Lagash, which are dated to ED IIIb based on textual evidence (Henrickson 1984; 707-712; Henrickson 1986: 23). Some researchers have recently suggested that the beginning of Godin III:6 should be pushed back as early as ED I (Haerinck 2011; Renette 2015). Renette argued that the Godin III potteries found in southern Mesopotamia and the analogous Susa Dc-d pottery belong to Godin III:5. therefore, the Godin III:5 is roughly contemporaneous to ED IIIb (Ibid). Furthermore, new dating of the Chogha Maran clay sealings (Pittman 2014; Khayani and Niknami 2019) to ED I supports the dating for ED III:6 and ED III:5. If Rennette’s argument is correct, there would have been a close connection between the Central Zagros, Susa and southern Mesopotamia in Godin III:5/ ED IIIb through which the Mesopotamian contest seals could appear in the Central Zagros and the monochrome painted pottery of the Central Zagros could appear in southern Mesopotamia. ED IIIb textual evidence especially from Kish and lagash refer to trade and conflicts between Mesopotamian polities and Elam/Aawan and support the connection (Steinkeller 2018: 180-82). Thus, the ED IIIb dating for KCS is more probable than ED IIIa. Based on textual evidence, the Central Zagros contest seals might have been derived from Mesopotamia or Susa through trade, hostilities or even moving people between the two regions (Selz 2014: 267, table. 2; Steinkeller 2013b: 301, 306; Steinkeller 2018: 180-182).
Function of Contest Seals in the Central Zagros
In Mesopotamia itself, the contest seals have been discovered from different contexts. In the royal cemetery of Ur the seals seems to be related to political, economic and military elites of the society (Moorey 1977: 35-7; Pittman 1998: 76-77; Pittman 2013: 332). They have also been found in domestic and administrative context in Fara (Matthews 1991: 9–13). If the contest seals keep their function and cultural meaning in the Central Zagros, they might belong to local elites as well as their counter parts. Considering the grave context of the contest seals at Kalleh Nisar and Bani Surmah and lack of impressions of these seals on clay sealings or textual evidence, Haerink and Overlaet proposed that the function of the seals was protective/amulet (Ibid: 51; Haerinck and Overlaet 2008: 48). However, some of the Central Zagros contest seals (Haerinck and Overlaet 2006, A 14-65, A 14-66, A 14-67, A 2-25) including KCS seems quiet worn, thus some of the seals might have been used for sealing action whether for mark personal property or in an administrative organization for limiting access to main commodities.
Based on style and iconography and several parallels KCS could be dated to ED III. Archaeological data of the Central Zagros and textual evidence of southern Mesopotamia indicate a close connection between the Central Zagros, Susa and southern Mesopotamia in Godin III:5/ED IIIb period, a fact that make ED IIIb more likely than ED IIIa for KCS. Contest seals have been found in a range of archaeological contexts in their origin: grave, domestic and administrative. If the contest seals would save their function and cultural meaning in the Central Zagros, they might have been related to local political, economic and military elites here as well as their counter parts in Mesopotamia. It should be noticed that having precious exotic items such as contest seals may be an indicator of differentiated groups or individuals who would have shown their special places through having such commodities, especially the contest seals that probably had the same function in their origin.
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