Document Type : Research Paper



The paper concerns with an investigation of beginnings and evolution of female figures on the cylinder seals of ancient Susiana plain during the middle of 4th millennium up to the end of 2nd millennium B.C. The female figures on the cylinder seals considered according to archaeological contexts and situations as independent variable according to which the visual qualities of them has been tested. Assuming an existential co-relation between archaeological situations and the modes of female figures, it is suggested that by transforming the first, the latter would be transformed actively as well. For discovering the meanings entangled with female figures on ancient Susiana cylinder seals, the enactive semiotics is applied. Accordingly, female figures on the cylinder seals and sealings are classified and described in terms of their spatiotemporal contexts. The major groups are female-related a, female-related b, crafting scenes, collective scenes and ritual scenes. The paper based on descriptive-analytical classification of data according to iconographic attributes, based on a theoretic examination of related archaeological evidence. The results show that womanity on-the cylinder seals have always been a dynamic phenomenon, depending on its historical and archaeological status.


مالافوریس، لمبرز. (1393). چگونه اشیاء ذهن را شکل می‌دهند؛ نظریة گیرایش مادّی. ترجمة وحید عسکرپور. تبریز: دانشگاه هنر اسلامی تبریز.
مصباح‌اردکانی، نصرت‌الملوک و ابوالقاسم دادور. (1387). نقشمایة زن بر روی مُهرهای ایران؛ از دورة پیش‌خطی تا پایان دورة ساسانی. پژوهش زنان. دورة 6، شمارة 4: 161-182.
Amiet, P., 1972. Glyptique susienne. Mémoires de La Délégation Archéologique En Iran, 43, 258.
Asher‐Greve, J. M., 1997. The essential body: Mesopotamian conceptions of the gendered body, Gender & History, 9 (3), 432–461.
Bahrani, Z., 2001. Women of Babylon: gender and representation in Mesopotamia. Psychology Press.
Beck, P., 1993. Early Bronze Age “Bed-Models” reconsidered. Tel Aviv, 1993(1), 33–40.
Bolger, D., & Wright, R. P., 2012. Gender in southwest Asian prehistory, in D., Bolger (ed.), a companion to gender prehistory, Wiley and Blackwell, pp. 372–394.
Charvát, P., 1988. Archaeology and social history: the Susa sealings, Ca. 4000-2340 BC., Paléorient, 14(1): 57–63.
Chavalas, M. W., 2013. Women in the ancient Near East: a sourcebook, Routledge.
Collon, D., 1990, Near Eastern seals (Vol. 2). Univ of California Press.
Crawford, H., 2013. An explanation of the world of women in third-millennium Mesopotamia, in: M. W., Chavalas (ed.), women in the ancient Near East: a Sourcebook, Routledge.
 p. 10).
Daems, A., 2005. The iconography of pre-Islamic women in Iran. Iranica Antiqua, 36(0), 1–150.
Deetz, J., 1996. In small things forgotten: an archaeology of early American life, Anchor Books/Doubleday.
Farman-Farmaian, M., 1984. Elamite cylinder seals. University of California, Berkeley.
Frankfort, H., & Jacobsen, T., 1955. Stratified cylinder seals from the Diyala region. University of Chicago Press.
Gadamer, H.-G., 1989. Truth and method (J. Weinsheimer & DG Marshall, trans.), New York, Continuum.
Gell, A., 1998. Art and agency: an anthropological theory. Oxford University Press.
Gorelick, L., & Gwinnett, A. J., 1990. The ancient Near Eastern cylinder seal as social emblem and status symbol, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 49(1): 45–56.
Gorelick, L., & Gwinnett, J., 1981. The origin and development of the ancient Near Eastern cylinder seal: a hypothetical reconstruction, Expedition 23(4): 17–30.
Gottdiener, M., 1995. Postmodern semiotics: material culture and the forms of postmodern life, Blackwell.
Hodder, I., & Hutson, S., 2003. Reading the past: current approaches to interpretation in archaeology,Cambridge University Press.
Keane, W., 2003. Semiotics and the social analysis of material things, Language & Communication23(3): 409–425.
Keel-Leu, H., & Teissier, B., 2004. Ancient Near Eastern cylinder seals of the collections “Bible+Orient” of the University of Fribourg, Academic Press.
Lele, V. P., 2006. Material habits, identity, semeiotic, Journal of Social Archaeology, 6(1): 48–70.
Leroi-Gourhan, A., 1993. Gesture and speech, MIT Press.
Lévi-Strauss, C., 2008. Structural anthropology, Basic Books.
Malbran-Labat, F., 1995. Les inscriptions royales de Suse: briques de l’époque paléo-élamite à l'Empire néo-élamite, Réunion des Musées Nationaux.
Marcus, M. I., 1989. Emblems of authority: the seals and sealings from Hasanlu IVB, Expedition 31(2): 53–63.
Matthews, D. M., 1997. The early glyptic of Tell Brak: cylinder seals of third millennium Syria (Vol. 15), Saint-Paul.
Moorey, P. R. S., & Gurney, O. R., 1978. Ancient Near Eastern cylinder seals acquired by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1963–1973, Iraq, 40 (01): 41–60.
Pittman, H., 2013. Seals and sealings in the Sumerian world, in: H, Crawford (ed.), the Sumerian world, Routledge, pp. 319–344).
Pittman, H., & Aruz, J., 1987, Ancient art in miniature: Near Eastern seals from the collection of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Porada, E., 1947. Mesopotamian art in cylinder seals of the Pierpont Morgan Library, Pierpont Morgan Library.
Porada, E., 1965. Art of ancient Iran, Greystone Press.
Porada, E., 1990. More seals of the time of the SUKKALMAḪ, Revue d’Assyriologie et D'archéologie Orientale, 84(2): 171–181.
Porada, E., 1993. Why cylinder seals? engraved cylindrical seal stones of the ancient Near East, fourth to first millennium BC., The Art Bulletin, 75(4): 563–582.
Potts, D. T., 1999. The archaeology of Elam: formation and transformation of an ancient Iranian state, Cambridge University Press.
Preucel, R. W., 2008. Archaeological semiotics (Vol. 4), John Wiley & Sons.
Ricoeur, P., 1976. Interpretation theory: discourse and the surplus of meaning, TCU Press.
Riggins, S. H., 1994. The socialness of things: essays on the socio-semiotics of objects (Vol. 115), Walter de Gruyter.
Roach, K. J., 2009. The Elamite cylinder seal corpus, C. 3500-1000 BC., University of Sydney.
Rothman, M. S., 1994. Sealing as a control mechanism in prehistory: Tepe Gawra XI, X and VIII, in: G., Stein & M. S., Rothman (eds.), chiefdoms and early states in the Near East: the organizational dynamics of complexity, Monographs in World Archaeology, pp. 103–120).
Sax, M., 1989. The composition of the materials of first millennium BC cylinder seals from Western Asia, Archaeological Sciences, 104–114.
Sax, M., 1994. The introduction of wheel cutting as a technique for engraving cylinder seals: its distinction from filing, Iraq 56: 153–166.
Sax, M., Collon, D., & Leese, M. N., 1993. The availability of raw materials for Near Eastern cylinder seals during the Akkadian, post Akaddian and Ur III periods, Iraq 55: 77–90.
Sax, M., & Meeks, N. D., 1995. Methods of engraving Mesopotamian quartz cylinder seals, Archaeometry 37(1): 25–36.
Sax, M., & Middleton, A. P., 1989. The use of volcanic tuff as a raw material for Proto-Elamite Cylinder seals, Iran 27: 121–123.
Taylor, P., 2006. The iconography of cylinder seals, Warburg Institute.
Thomas, J. (1998). Review Articles: The Socio-Semiotics of Material Culture: Gottdiener, M. Postmodern Semiotics: Material Culture and the Forms of Postmodern Life, 1995, Oxford: Blackwell. 262 pp. 0-631-19216-6 Riggins, SH (ed.), The Socialness of Things: Essays in the Socio-Semiotics of Objects, 1994, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 482 pp. 3-11-014133-7. Journal of Material Culture, 3(1), 97-108.
Tilley, C., 1989. Archaeology as socio-political action in the present, in: A. Wylie (ed.), critical traditions in contemporary archaeology, Cambridge University Press, pp. 104–116.
Van Buren, E. D., 1949. The cylinder seals from Brak, Iraq11(1): 59–76.
Ward, W. H., 1919. The seal cylinders of western Asia. Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Watts, C. M., 2008. On mediation and material agency in the Peircean semeiotic, in: L., Malafouris (ed.), material agency, Springer, pp. 187–207.
Werr, L., al-G., 1988. Cylinder seals made of clay, Iraq50: 1–24.