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Old Screeds

A Lion-Centaur from the Achaemenid Persian Empire

I was reading academic papers the other day, and came across "A Comparative Study of the Sphinx in Achaemenid Art and Seljuk Art" by Mohammadreza Sharifzadeh and Elahe Feizi Moghaddam, University of Tehran, published in Bagh-e Nazar Journal. It's a compare and contrast of sphinxes of two eras. But the thing that drew my eye was a lion-centaur mentioned in the paper:

lion-centaur shown in an academic paper

Per the paper, that's a seal (not a cylinder seal) found in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. So I went looking for it on the museum's website. And I found this lion-centaur here. From the page:

Achaemenid lion-centaur from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Pyramidal seal with hunting scene

Near Eastern, Iranian, Persian Achaemenid Period, 550-331 B.C.
Medium/Technique: Chalcedony Dimensions: Height x length (of face): 24 x 17 mm (15/16 x 11/16 in.)
Classification: Seals
Description: Intaglio. Pierced for stringing but perforation does not go all the way through. Motif oriented horizontally. Sphinx with human head, torso, arms and lion's paws pursues a lion towards the right. He draws his bow at the lion while running over the body of a dead antelope. Human head is bearded and wears a vertically-tufted tiara. Scene is situated on a ground line.
Provenance: By date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren (according to his records: bought in Smyrna); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, March 24,1903

This is an exciting discovery for me because it represents a late survival of the urmahlullu tradition from Ancient Assyria. The Assyrians were succeeded by the Neo-Assyrians, and they influenced the Persians who founded the Achaemenid Empire. And perhaps that late survival helps to explain the Greek liontaur I blogged about last year.

For more information on the Achaemenid Persian Empire:

Home | This post was written on 6 Feb 2022.