• James E Aarons DVM

Ishtar's Ebla Temple


Among the numerous votive offerings thrown in the favissa together with the bowls, certainly employed for unknown ritual ceremonies, we found a hematite cylinder seal, dating probably from between 1850 and 1800 B.C., which has a special importance for the cult scene engraved on it (Fig. 3).

In fact, on it they represented the adoration of a well known standard composed of a female head

above and a male head below, topped by a bird. The adoring figure is a high priestess with a thick and long hairdress, and an appendix on top of her head, followed by a male personage wearing a kilt, who carries two spears. Between the standard and the priestess there is an offering table with a particular structure with a central support ending at the bottom with out-turned bull legs and three vertical peripheral elements, which are supplementary supports.

Fig 4

One cylinder where the standard with the two heads appears, where near the usual scene with the adoration to the standard by the priestess appears, behind the standard, also the representation of a schematic rectangular building with a strong development in height, on which there is a lion (Fig. 4).14

Fig 5

This schematic rectangular building is found in a limited series of archaic Old Syrian cylinders, all closely related stylistically and connected by a peculiar stylized motif which is used as element of division of the tripartite friezes in this class of seals, a kind of rope design 15 between two lines, which seems to be an antecedent of the later guilloche of the classic Old Syrian glyptics. In two seals, one in the Erlenmeyer Collection (Fig. 5) 16 and one in the Louvre Museum (Fig. 6),17 the building is represented as a rectangle composed of square blocks alternated with vertical and horizontal lines : particularly interesting is the fact that, while in the seal of the Erlenmeyer Collection it has a development in height, in the Louvre cylinder, on the contrary, it has a horizontal development. In both seals, which are clearly the product of the same workshop, 18 series of lions are represented, together with other natural and fantastic animal figures. 19

Fig 6

Fig 7

A probably slightly later seal of the Ashmolean Museum (Fig. 7) has the same building with the same pattern of squares alternating with horizontal and vertical lines, on which there are two birds, near a lion, an ibex, hares, several man and bird heads placed without order.20 The same building with development in height and squares alternating with vertical and horizontal lines appears also in another archaic Old Syrian seal of the Archaeological Museum of Aleppo, close to the Syrianizing Colonial style.2two

Fig 8

By far more interesting in this class of archaic Old Syrian cylinders, however, is the seal n. 92 of the Brett Collection (Fig. 8), where the whole figurative field is divided in two superimposed registers divided by the usual rope design.22 In the upper one there is the rectangular building, apparently with two provision jars below, near which there are two lions which tear to pieces a naked man lying between them, while in the lower one, there are two registers, the upper one with lion figures, and the lower one with male heads.

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Ishtar's Ebla Temple, Chapter 19