This seal, slightly larger than the average size, is in excellent condition although the rim has suffered minor damage. The surface of the bronze is covered with a green patina which forms thick encrustations in places. The inner suspension loop was worn down in antiquity, due to an extensive use.
Contrary to other similar objects, this work is of the highest quality and features a very particular subject: inside the circle that frames the seal is an animal pattern composed of a seated monkey, the sinuous tail of which terminates in the head of a snake. Linear or small lines incisions enrich the figure with anatomical details. This hybrid being would have possibly had a meaning in Bactrian mythology of the Bronze Age: the serpent is a chthonian animal which was largely widespread in Near Eastern iconography, while the monkey is frequently documented in many ancient cultures (China, India, Mediterranean Basin, Mesopotamia). In Bactrian contemporary iconography, this animal appeared on other related seals, but there also exist bronze cosmetic flasks representing monkeys or mythical beings with a human head and the body of a crouching monkey. Although bronze compartmented seals are widely distributed on the entire Iranian plateau, in the Indus Valley and in a number of Mesopotamian sites (Mari, for instance), the overwhelming majority of them originates in Bactria (a vast mountainous and often desert area, roughly corresponding to modern-day Afghanistan). Their artistic and technical skills are, besides, well
beyond the productions of the other Near or Middle Eastern regions.
Bactrian seal impressions, which are rather rare, can mainly be seen on cretulas or, more seldom, on terracotta vessels: like in the Mesopotamian world and in Iran, they were used in the administrative and commercial fields. The fact that many Bactrian seals show precise parallels in the impressions coming from the sites of the Iranian plateau (Sahdhad, in particular) proves the existence of direct contacts between these regions.
The sizes of these seals may vary, but they are generally around 4-5 cm. They are flat and mostly circular, but there are many variants (square, cross-shaped or with the outline of a human or animal figure). There is always a suspension loop at the center of the posterior part, which, unlike our example, is most often smooth and undecorated.
The patterns that adorn the inner seal are quite repetitive and include stars, circles, straight and undulated lines, crosses, leaves and flowers. On the contrary, the subjects of the figural seals are more diversified and feature animals (seated or standing caprids, bovids, snakes, dogs, scorpions, birds, etc.), as well as human beings or monsters.
All e-Tiquities have been searched in the Art Loss Register database.