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Parseh J Archaeol Stud 2023, 6(22): 89-111 Back to browse issues page
Typology of Urartian Official of Aṣuli’s Seal-Impression in Bastam
Maryam Dara *
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Texts and Inscriptions Research Center of RICHT, Tehran, Iran. , maryam_dara@yahoo.com
Abstract:   (307 Views)
The Urartians lived about 9th to 7th centuries B.C around the shores of four Lake Urmia, Lake Sevan, Çildir Lake and Van Lake. The production of the sealed bullae started from Rusa II’s reign about 713 B.C. The stamp and cylinder seal impressions on these pieces of evidence could provide us with the wide range of data about the Urartians. There are some recognized cylinder seal impressions on some bullae and tablets belong to the Urartian official called aṣuli. This official is mentioned in the seal impressions from several Urartian sites including Bastam, Ayanis, Anzaf and Toprakkale. Some studies and contributions have been taken place on who these aṣulis could be the crowned princes or the officials. The question of who were aṣulis and from which sites their seal impressions are discovered aer significant issue as there are several pieces of evidence discovered. Also, there was the question of the possible difference between the seals and their inscriptions and motifs. Also, the difference between their seal impressions and the variety of their seals were significant questions. It is the aim of this paper to put the different seal impressions of aṣulis in different groups and subgroups according to the detail of the illustrated mythical scenes of the griffins or genies in two sides of a sacred tree and the position of the inscription above and below this scene and the difference in the inscriptions. Additionally, the author provides the readers with the reasons she thinks aṣuli is not the crowned prince but a trusted official who had the permission to deliver commands and massages. The research has been fulfilled by both library and field work.
Keywords: Urartu, Bulla, Tablet, Seal Impression, Aṣuli.

Bastam or mrusa=i URU.TUR is close to Ghareziaeddin, close to Khoy and Maku, in Western Azerbaijan in Iran and is recognized the most developed Urartian fortification. W. Kleiss and the German archaeologists have excavated Bastam fortification and city from 1968 to 1979, except 1971 and 1976. Then H. Khatib Shahidi continued the studies in the sites. Bastam was founded by Rusa II, son of Argišti, and is the most developed Urartian city of all.
The tablets and bullae discovered in Bastam could bring significant data with their inscriptions and cylinder and stamp seal impressions. The Urartian cylinder seal impressions bore mostly the inscription of king Rusa II, son of Argišti, and other officials. Among the persond whose inscriptions on the seal impressions are recognized are aṣuli officials who seem to be trusted persons of the king.
Urartian sealed tablets and bullae of Bastam have previously been reported by Seidl (1976; 1979; 1988), Zimansky (1979; 1988), Salvini (1979a, 1988; 2012) and the author (2017; 2019).
The question of who aṣulis were and from which sites their seal impressions are discovered is a significant issue as they are couple of pieces of evidence remained from them. Also, the difference between their seal impressions and the variety of the seals was challenging for the scholars.
Accordingly, it was the aim of this paper to study the seal impression by this official in different Urartian sites to find out the difference and variety and groups of seal impressions remained from aṣulis and also to propose who this official could be in regard of their seal impressions. The author suggested they were trusted persons. Some of the seal impressions mentioned in this paper are published for the first time after the excavations. Additionally, the iconography of their seal impressions scenes was to be studied. The research has been fulfilled by both library and field work.

There are at least seven groups of the cylinder seal impressions mentioned in this paper according to their inscriptions and motifs discovered in several Urartian sites including Bastam, Ayanis, Anzaf and Toprakkale. The slightly different details of the sacred trees, genies and griffins were observed as well. Also, the exact position of each sign of the two-line inscription on the above and below the scene were studied in comparison with the other impressions. 
KIŠIB LÚa- ṣu-li is always the key expression to this sort of seal impressions and sometimes the name of the aṣuli rarely along the name of his father was also mentioned in the inscription. 
It is possible that a group of aṣuli seal impressions is discovered in different sites and some are only observed in one site. Bastam, Upper anzaf, Ayanis and Karmir-blur are the sites that the seal impressions of aṣulis have been previously discovered in. 
As the seal impression of the aṣuli have been observed on the order tablets and with respect to their fathers’ names it is possible that they were the Seal Holders appointed by the king himself and not the crowned princes, princes or ordinary officials.
The scene of the sacred trees with two genies or griffins holding buckets facing the trees was repeated on the seal impressions of the aṣuli therefore it is possible that they were regarded as the guardians of the Urartian king and his kingship. This scene is very much similar to the Assyrian scenes on the reliefs and seal impressions. The scene is nor recognized on the Urartian reliefs. 
Additionally, the iconography of the sacred tree, genies and griffins are studied to provide a better perception of the elements illustrated on the seals of the aṣulis.
The author proposed that the trees could be regarded as the eternal kingdom of Urartu to be guarded by the aṣulis. It is also possible that the genies and griffins are symbols of the aṣulis on their cylinder seal impressions.

Seven groups and the sub-groups of the slightly different cylinder seal impressions of aṣulis have been proposed and analyzed in this paper according to the impression inscriptions, details of the motifs and the position of the cuneiform signs in the two-line inscriptions above and below the scenes that are observed on the bullas and tablets discovered from Bastam and other Urartian sites. The suggested categories of the aṣulis’ impressions are presented according to Bastam bullae and tablet impressions in comparison with the impressions of other Urartian sites as Ayanis, Upper anzaf and Karmir-blur that aṣulis’ impressions are discovered over the bullae or tablets.
It is possible that at least seven seals were used in the Urartian states by the aṣulis but of course there could be more that are not discovered or are destroyed. The identical seal impressions discovered in different sites in Urartian reign is challenging. It is possible that the bullae or tablets with exactly the same seal impressions were sent or brought from one site to another in the Urartian era or exactly the same seal was copied in another site which seems less possible.
The name and sometimes the fathers’ names of the aṣulis are observed on some of the bullae or tablet impressions. Accordingly, aṣuli was an official in the Urartian reign who possibly bore the seal of the king or had the power to convey his orders and messages to the Urartian cities, fortifications or garrisons. Perhaps some of them were from the royal family but according to the inscription by the aṣulis there is lack of the piece of evidence they were crowned princes or sons of the Urartian kings. It is possible that the seals of the aṣulis were used in order to officially be sent as the orders by the highest ranks.
It is possible that griffins or genies facing the sacred tree on the aṣulis’ seal impressions were symbols of aṣulis themselves safeguarding the Urartian king and his kingship and the sacred trees were the symbols of the Urartian eternal kingdom to be protected and served by the aṣulis.
Additionally, discovering the same seal impressions of the bullae or tablets from different sites could bring the idea of sending or receiving these objects from other sites in the antiquity.
Article number: 4
Keywords: Urartu, Bulla, Tablet, Seal Impression, Aṣuli.
Full-Text [PDF 1629 kb]   (114 Downloads)    
Type of Study: Research | Subject: Interdisciplinary
Received: 2021/11/29 | Accepted: 2022/02/19 | Published: 2023/02/20
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Dara M. (2023). Typology of Urartian Official of Aṣuli’s Seal-Impression in Bastam. Parseh J Archaeol Stud. 6(22), 89-111. doi:10.30699/PJAS.6.22.89
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