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title: “Lab 2 Visible Language”
author: “Megan”
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Visible Language

A Babylonian Cylinder

Barrel cylinder inscription used as a foundation deposit

This artifact is a clay cylinder that is not evenly cylindrical. It bows out about two-thirds of the way down and then tapers back in slightly, sort of like a vase shape, but it is not hollow in any capacity. The cylinder is almost completely covered in text except for a thin dividing line encircling it horizontally, dividing the text into an upper and lower half. There is also a thicker vertical dividing line, possibly marking the beginning and end of the reading.

The text appears to be characters like written Chinese or Japanese, and it possibly is intended to be read vertically, based on the very thin lines inscribed between each column of text. There is no decoration but text on the cylinder. The summary of the text is as follows:

The inscription on this cylinder records the restoration by Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, of the temple of the god Lugalmarada in the town of Marad. The text reveals that, during restoration, it was discovered that the ancient lower courses of the structure had been laid by Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, more than sixteen hundred years earlier.

The cylinder is, by my estimate, perhaps 6 to 8 inches tall and maybe three inches in diameter at its widest. It is small, but not of a practical shape to store, most likely because it was not meant to be stored with other texts but rather buried or used as a cornerstone in the rebuilding of a temple. It also resembles the way that today, in the renovation of or addition to a church, members might write messages in the open frame before the floor and walls and finishing is placed. It is more of a ceremonial or symbolic writing.

A Hebrew Seal

This artifact is a small oval shape, probably 2 centimeters wide and 1 centimeter tall. The material it is made of might be stone and it is a translucent reddish-brown. The writing on it is Hebrew letters that as best as I can tell resemble the modern Hebrew language. The museum provides a direct translation of the text:

This stamp seal is inscribed in Hebrew: “Belonging to Elyaqin, servant of the king.” The seal came from one of the Hebrew kingdoms, Israel or Judah, probably just prior to the Assyrian invasion of the region in the late eighth century B.C.

There is little room on the seal for anything but the text, but it is decorated with thin lines encircling the text and dividing it into an upper and lower portion. I would imagine that this division may fall where the comma divides the translation. The text would have had to be inscribed backwards in order to stamp correctly, a more advanced work of text. The size would make it easy to transport for frequent use.


The Babylonian cylinder is listed to be an artifact from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled from 604 to 561 BC. The Hebrew seal is dated to be from around 700 BC. They come from different regions as well; the Hebrew kingdoms were located further west than where the Babylonian kingdom was.

The differences in their purposes accounts for the differences in size and material. The smaller seal is meant to be transported, and most likely has less of a chance than clay of breaking if dropped or fumbled with. The larger cylinder, once placed, is not intended to be moved. My suspicion that the Babylonian writing is read vertically, while the Hebrew writing is horizontal, accounts for the differences in shape - that the Babylonian artifact is taller than it is long, and the Hebrew artifact is longer than it is tall.

Both have mention of a king in the summary of their writing. The cylinder records actions of the king while the seal mentions that its owner is a servant of the king. This points toward writing at this time belonging more to the upper classes. Whoever Elyaqin, servant of the king, was, he must have been important enough that he needed an official seal to certify writings or such as belonging to or authorized by him. That points to upper class as well and someone closer to the king. These isolate writing more to the elite and what seem mainly to be history and commerce; matters of money, or legacy and the progression and achievements of the high class and royalty.