Pigtailed Women

By
Anna Glenn
Anna Glenn is a graduate student specializing in Assyriology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins.

  • Accession Number: A.1000
  • Measurements: Length: 1.7 cm, Width: 1.7 cm
  • Material: Stone, Hematite
  • Date/Culture: Uruk/Jemdet-Nasr, Late 4th-early 3rd millennium B.C.E.
  • Provenance: Unknown

Description

Four figures sit facing left, arms raised in front.  Their bodies are simple L-shapes, made with drill-holes and filled out with a cutting tool; their heads are single drill-holes, with lines hanging down behind representing ponytails.  In the spaces between the women are unidentified, circular objects.

Discussion

The scene on this seal is typical of the “Jemdet-Nasr style,” which appears on seals from regions across the Near East during the late Uruk and the Jemdet-Nasr periods (ca. 3100-2900 B.C.E.).  The “pig-tailed women” shown here are a common feature of the Jemdet-Nasr style.  They are often shown crouching or seated on platforms or mats, as here, and are usually engaged in domestic work such as weaving or pottery-making.  Their tasks have sometimes been interpreted as having a temple context – perhaps illustrating preparations for rituals.  The significance of the circular objects between the women is not certain – similar objects appear alongside the “pig-tailed women” in many Jemdet-Nasr style seals, and possibly represent pots or vessels being made by the women.

References

  • Collon, Dominique, 1987. First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East. London: British Museum Publications.
  • Merrillees, Parvine H, 1990. Cylinder and Stamp Seals in Australian Collections. Deakin University Archaeology Research Unit Occasional Paper 3. Victoria.
  • Porada, Edith, ed., 1948. Corpus of Ancient Near Eastern Seals in North American Collections: The Collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Bollingen Series 14 (2 vols.). Washington, D.C.