The Great Fatted Bull
Tablet #36
Sumerian Images
Sumerian History
The Royal Tombs of Ur
The Standard of Ur:  War
The Standard of Ur:  King
The "Standard" of Ur?
Vulture Stele Translation
Sumerian War Chariots
War Chariot Deconstructed
Gudea Translation
The Face of Gudea
The Face of Ur-Ningirsu
The Face of Lugal-agrig-zi
Ur-Namma Translation
The Face of Ur-Namma
Face of Ur-Namma, part II
I am Ur-Namma
The Face of Shulgi
Who Were the Sumerians?
Other Sumerian Kings
The Princess Wife
The Great Fatted Jackass
Sargon's Victory Stele
Helmet: the King of Kish
The Standard of Mari?
The Invention of Writing
Adventures in Cuneiform
The Sumerian Scribe
Scribal Social Rankings
Early Old Babylonian?
A Masterpiece
Site Map

The seal of Arad-Nanna. He is a sukkal-mah, a high official (like a prime minister or a secretary of the interior). He is the son of Ur-Shul-pa-e, who is also a sukkal-mah. This is obviously a well-established family of the high nobility. Arad-Nanna doesn't hold his hands in the “reverence” position". He seems to saunter into the king's presence. The scene is almost relaxed and familiar, as between two near-equals. This suggests he is a member of the royal family. The goddess who accompanies Arad-Nanna is not a minor goddess with just a single pair of horns on her helmet, as is usually the case. The multiple horns on her helmet indicates that she is a major goddess. Significantly, she has her hands held up in reverence to the king, whereas Arad-Nanna does not.  Enlarge


Seal of the scribe Ur-ku-nun-na. He likewise does not hold up his hands in reverence. This means he was part of the high nobility or perhaps the royal family itself, even though his father was a mere karushda, an animal fattener who runs a stockyard.  See "The Scribe".

The seal of a scribe. Coincidentally, he is also named Ur-Shul-pa-e. He is a scribe in the  king's court, which would suggest he's a member of the nobility. If so, he is probably of the minor nobility, or he may be the son of a rich merchant. The scribe is the son of Ur-Ha-ia; who is a nobody, apparently, as no title is given. The king welcomes the scribe into his court, but the protocol is different than the one accorded to the scribe Ur-ku-nun-na. Ur-Shul-pa-e is shown bearing an offering (a kid lamb?) or gift (a statue?) to the king. The offering indicates the scribe is of a lesser rank than Ur-ku-nun-na, the son of the kurushda, the animal fattener.

Amar-Suen is the king on the seal of Ur-Shul-pa-e. Amar's son and successor, Shu-Suen, is the king on the seals of Arad-Nanna and Ur-ku-nun-na.


Arad2-zu: your servant. Arad means slave/servant. These signs were carved into the margin outside of the border for the rest of the writing after the seal had already been manufactured. There are many other examples of preexisting cylinder seals with the words "your servant" carved into the margins, almost as an afterthought or a "p.s." It seems that sometime during the reign of Amar-Suen, the phrase "your servant" became part of the standard protocol when addressing the king, so the scribes who made their cylinder seals early in the king's reign later had to add the words to their seals. The words "arad-zu" is often translated as "your slave" rather than "your servant", though this seems an unlikely translation in the context of willing service to the king.

The scribe Ur-Shul-pa-e had the words "your servant" added to his cylinder seal at a later date. These words were already included on the seals of Arad-Nanna and Ur-ku-nun-na.

Another scribal seal impression showing arad2-zu carved into the margin.