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This started with an enquiry about this unusual artefact.

From Barbara

For one of my artifacts I could not find any reference.

Maybe a visitor of your website will have an idea.

I don't believe it is a fake, because it so uncommon and unsual.

The material may be alabaster. The discovery region is unspecified "Middle East".

I was extremely doubtful that it was ancient.

We  discussed in what ways modern and ancient stone working looks the same and in what ways it looks different

I don't know how to interpret what I see here (up to now).


The bottom of these three holes are not smooth, they have concentric (to the small hole inside) scratches/marks.

Also in the carvings of the legs and the wings of the insect are (longitudinal) scratches to be seen.

Only the semi circles on the back seems to be polished. 


And all over the piece are older and brand new small chips to be seen.


I researched in many directions.  My most interesting find is the Chaldean goddess Orore:


"Why not write up a bit about this and then we could put pics and  the info on my website and see what people think about the piece?



First of all:


The piece was dated ca. 2000 BC, as find location Near East was given. I bought it because it seemed to be not only rare but uncommon. I posted it already in a German forum for archaeology.


There it was refused as a fake. I won't say so, neither does Ursula Seidl, professor and specialist for near eastern seals, I have contacted. Unfortunately she could not help with any ideas.


My appraisal:

The material is quartz (or alabaster? I never have had alabaster in my hands).

To be seen is an insect. Peculiar are the three dots on the body and that the insect seems to be headless.

It seems not to be a variation (I found many!) of the winged sun disc.


On the back are concentric semi circles.

Old and new chips all over the piece.

Tool marks in the engravings, the semi circles on the back are polished.

For the engravings and the question "modern or ancient tool" I used a cheap USB-microscope and made snapshots.

For one snapshot I used graphite to show the tool marks. Comparable tool marks in drill holes are to be seen on a Jemdet Nasr stone seal.

In the large drilled hole with a magnifying glass another small hole is to be seen.

I think that must be where an inclusion was knocked out during the drilling.

My researches:

- Insects and their denotation in ancient Near East

- Myths about acephaloi in ancient Near East

- Circle symbols in ancient Near East

My finds:

1. Insects

1.1 "Orore": Chaldean goddess. The female principle of creation, the original egg, in the form of an insect with one eye and a hugely pregnant abdomen. Her consort was a fish-tailed bull-headed male, principle of creation, the original sperm. Unfortunately I could not find any depiction and any academic literature. It seems to me that every internet author copied one single text. Maybe the transliteration/notation is wrong. A friend of mine, reading and writing cuneiform, promised to look out for this goddess.

1.2  "Hannahanna": Hurrian/Hittite mother goddess (I could not find an image). Her special animal is the bee.

1.3 Greek bee goddess: golden idol from Rhodes, 700 BC, abdomen like a bee. Literature says, that the depiction of the winged bee goddess must be far older.

1.4 Headless bees are portrayed on rosettes in the Artemisium of Ephesus (I could not find an image).

1.5 "Nergal": The image of a fly on Babylonian seals has been thought possibly to be a symbol of Nergal.

1.6 Plagues of locusts between 1700 - 710 BC:  The catastrophes are documented in contemporary letters (cuneiform) from local governors to the central government and caused official directives.

1.7 At the end something disgusting: The favoured method of obtaining bee sperm is to pull off the insect's head. Decapitation sends an electrical impulse to the nervous system, causing sexual arousal. The lower half of the headless bee is then squeezed to make it ejaculate, the resulting liquid is collected for insertion into the female. I don't know whether this practice was known by the beekeepers in ancient Near East.

2. Acephaloi

There are headless demons and beheaded gods/goddesses, but not described as or connected with an insect.

3. Circles

3.1 Semi circles are symbols for the Hittite sun goddess "Arinna". This may correspond with "Hannahanna".

3.2 For the Babylonians there are 3 heavenly spheres above the ur-hill of earth. This may correspond with "Nergal". In a text from Uruk Nergal visits the underworld.

If you roll up the piece you see the heavens and earth and beneath in underworld the insect.

3.3 Cuneiform tablets are reporting about halos. Halos where related with omens.

My thoughts:

This piece seems to be a solitaire without any reference. The conclusion, that therefore it must be a fake, is not evident in my eyes.

From Steve

The cloven-hoofed leg of a lampstand or similarly supported object?

 From Bob.

Even if not ancient- which it could well be- it was an outstanding example or the owner researching the item before asking for opinions !


From Edgar

Not ancient, I agree....


From Michael

Looking at the photos and my first question is are you sure it is stone and not carved bone or horn? Horn or bone will not be cold to the touch in room tempature. Quartz would be noticeably colder than room temperature(Like both nephrite and jadeite jade). Alabaster has a hardness of 2 and is basically gypsum. Quartz on the other hand is much harder at 7. I ask this as I notice it has been drilled to be a pendent. Ancient drilling was done with a stick and sand with the stick spun between the hands like someone starting a fire. To bore an even hole through quartz would be no easy task for someone in ancient times and most often done with two shallow holes bored near one another where the holes connect allowing a string to go though it. A long thin drill hole alone would tell me it's not ancient, unless it was added in modern times.


From Tonio

IMHO, I would be very surprised if it were ancient. The person giving the info on the object cannot tell if it alabaster or quartz.  Quartz is significantly harder. Also if it were alabaster is should have weathering to the patina associated with the formation of calcite. In there explaination of the type of insect and why, the person sites cultures from different times such as ancient Assyria then Ephesos at its peek. The insect to me appears to be a cicada. The wings are not insect wings but the hind legs are typical of flying insects. The headless part is what leads me to a cicada. Other than two round eyes, which the carving has, the cicada's head terminates flatly like the depiction. They are large and harmless. Most ancient insect depictions are of stinging/biting insects, flies, bees, scorpions etc. To me this piece makes no sense stylistically nor does it apear to have age(his own pics camparing it to a Jemdat Nasr seal shows this). Also, archaeology gennerally finds intems that have no comparables in the record problematical, generally doubtful unless PROVEN otherwise. Lastly I have never seen an authentic seal with brown wax in the carved areas. I have seen it in modern pieces with it.


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