The mythological background of three seal impressions found in Urkesh

Title: The mythological background of three seal impressions found in Urkesh
Source document: Religio. 2014, vol. 22, iss. 1, pp. [29]-53
  • ISSN
    1210-3640 (print)
    2336-4475 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

This article interprets the iconographic motifs on three seal impressions discovered at the north Syrian Tell Mozan site, which are dated to the last third of third millennium B.C. In ancient times, the city was known as Urkesh and the population of Hurrians played an important role there. The motif on the first seal impression is that of a herd and a dog gazing at a bird. The seal impression is damaged, but it is likely that the bird bore a human figure, which allows us to associate this scene with the Legend of Etana. The motif on the second impression is a double-faced god, most likely Isimud/Usmu. These two motifs show numerous thematic and stylistic Akkadian elements, which demonstrate southern Mesopotamian influences on the culture of Urkesh. The third motif is an anthropomorphic figure in the mountains. Even here some comparisons can be considered but no close textual parallel has been found. All three impressions are analyzed and interpreted through a comparison with parallel themes in mythological texts and in Akkadian glyptic. A mythological background seems very likely in the case of the first and second motifs but cannot be ascertained regarding the third one. The provenance of the first two motifs is uncertain and there is no conclusive proof of Urkesh origin. The seals could come from the Akkadian cultural enviroment, but it is possible that their content was known in the Hurrian city because of the spread of scribal tradition. There are fewer common features between the third motif and Akkadian glyptic, which makes its origin in Urkesh more probable.