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Eventi e convegni | L'Orientale Magazine

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25. 04. 2010| Eventi e convegni

Seals from the Near East: story of a method

Simonetta Graziani illustrates the different typologies of seals, spread together with the cuneiform writing, analyzing the several studying methods

Naples, April 20th - Today the second lecture took place within the interdisciplinary workshop about the recent developments in the Ancient Near East studies. The speaker was Simonetta Graziani, professor of Akkadian Epigraphy and Story of the ancient Near East.
The title of the lecture, “On the giants’ shoulders”, refers to a letter by Newton in February 1676, in which the scientist argues that his studies would not have been so successful if he did not have rested on the giants who preceded him. This passage has been drawn on by two researchers, Christopher Walker and Stefania Altavilla, in order to demonstrate the debt towards the method of two eminent scholars in the ‘70s among whom, apart from J. Mac Ginnis, we can also find professor Graziani herself, who worked on this subject in 1989. The text was published in 2009 and it analyzes 500 of the 30000 boards, dated between the VII century B.C. and 482 and belonging to the Sippar Collection of the British Museum. The methodological novelty lies in the analysis of the seals and the texts in cuneiform writing.
The lecture illustrated the different typologies of seals (pressed, cylindrical and mixed), already used from the V millennium as an identity or integrity brand. The cylindrical seals, the use of which goes back to the IV millennium, are decorated with naturalistic scenes or geometric pictures and they can cover much wider surfaces. With time the iconographic repertoire has become richer and richer so as to include every aspect of human life, becoming an important documentation in order to comprehend some social and political aspects of the time and to rebuild periods of the history of art of which we have few marks.
The studies of the seals began in the mid 19th century. The seals have been immediately considered as objects of art but, a long time before, they had recognized their intrinsic value so that there are some of them, belonging to the Akkadian age, in the treasure of the Palatine Chapel of the Norman Palace in Palermo. The problem is that, until a few years ago, the ones who studied them were only archaeologists, not philologists, who only cared about the cuneiform text. The very turning point, which led to important results, was when they understood the need for an analysis starting from the text-seal relationship.

Autore: Aniello Fioccola - Translated by Luisa Lupoli

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