Cylinder seals are artifacts that appeared around 3400–2900 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.
A cylinder seal is a small stone cylinder engraved in intaglio on its surface in order to leave impressions when rolled on wet clay.
Cylinder seals were used to mark personal property and to make documents legally binding: in fact, their use was reserved for the authorities.
These artifacts were used as seals for large or small containers, such as Medieval sealing wax.
Cylinder seals also had a religious function, having the purpose to invoke divine protection.
The earliest examples used geometric, magical, or animal patterns, while later seals incorporated the owner’s name.
Sometimes, the elements were arranged in symmetrical or decorative patterns, but an action was often represented.
Scenes also depicted magical or religious events reserved for small groups of people, such as ministers or officials.
Materials used for the cylinders were clay and various precious and semiprecious stones, including lapis lazuli.
Lapis lazuli was a highly valued stone in ancient Mesopotamia, credited with symbolic and magic qualities.
Cylinder seals are very important in the history of mankind because they opened the way for the birth of cuneiform writing, which appeared for the first time in Mesopotamia.
Cuneiform writing improved on forms of writing based on figurative depiction of reality, meaning that symbols became the basis of written communication.
Dan Brown probably mentioned the cylinder seal in Inferno as a direct reference to the origins of cuneiform writing.
In the novel, a cylinder seal bore a particularly gruesome image of a three-headed Satan along with a single word: saligia.
Picture by Wikimedia