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The Darius Seal

Chalcedony / prase cylinder seal: streaked, green to grey-brown, clouded; carved scene shows chariot, lions, symbol, tree and inscription; a royal personage (Darius I) facing right, stands at the back of a chariot, with his torso presented frontally; he has a long pointed beard, striated across the cheek and vertically down the chin and chest, his hair, in diagonal lines, is in a full-page boy style at the nape of the neck, he wears a dentate crown with four well-defined points set on wide circlet decorated with a band of dots, and is dressed in the full-length formal robe (only the top half of the garment is visible), with pendant sleeves folded back from the arms and hands to leave them free to aim his bow, which ends in a curved bird-head. The charioteer stands before the king, leans forward and guides the two horses; his short pointed beard and shoulder-length hair are striated, he wears a diadem with central boss and his upper garment is a cape with a double line border.

The waist high sides of the two-wheeled chariot are covered by three narrow crossed (possibly cruciform) panels or straps, a rounded handle-like, looped projection protrudes from the upper end of the back, against which the king leans, while at the front is a notched, curved pole-brace; the wheel is eight-spoked with a thick, studded rim; the pole links chariot to the yoke. The two horses (the heads are shown as double, but only one body is depicted) gallop with forelegs stretched out and bent slightly downwards, their harnesses are decorated with large tassels, the penis is shown and the tail hangs down but appears to be knotted at the tip. The king has shot two arrows into the eye and front paw of a confronting, rampant and snarling lion; its heavy mane is marked by a cross-hatched pattern ending in a ventral projection down the body. Beneath the hooves of the horses lies a lion cub, face downwards (probably dead). All the animals have well-defined and lightly modelled musculature, discreet drill-holes mark out the eyes, jaws and hind paws of the lion; a curious group of drill-holes mark the lower end of the further foreleg of the horse.

Above the scene hovers a winged sun-disc from which rises the upper part of a male figure (the god Ahuramazda), his beard is striated, he wears a crown with spikes (giving it a feather-like appearance), set on a narrow circlet, his garment has long pendant sleeves from which emerge his hands, one raised, the other extended and holding a ring. The wings are long and narrow but widen slightly at the tips and are marked by long horizontal lines and divided into six sections but diagonal lines, while the tail is marked by fine vertical lines sectioned across by one curving line; two scroll-like appendages emerge from each side. Flanking the scene are two identical palm-trees or date-palms with globular bunches of fruit beneath the palm fronds on each side, and base petioles shown by a continuous criss-cross pattern down the trunks ending in widened bases. The whole is placed on a ground line. To the side is three-line vertical inscription panel.

Crack running through the seal.

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