The Assyrian Era in Mesopotamia was characterized by great advances in the understanding of science and technology. Assyrian astronomers were the first to map the heavens. Assyrian engineers developed extensive agricultural pumping systems, as well as the flush toilet and the first subway system, the Nineveh Interurban.
Less well known to the layman is the Assyrians' landmark research into biochemistry and genetic engineering. Working with the simplest of tools, Assyrian scientists gave the world the centaur, the satyr, the pygmy winged fairy and many other intriguing human and animal hybrids, once thought to be purely mythic figures.
The Assyrians had a practical application for their technology as well. Mesopotamia was a semi-arid region with a growing population and a constant influx of conquered peoples to add to the ranks of the enslaved. This situation required almost yearly increases in agricultural efficiency.
The cylinder seal displayed here is believed to have been owned by Bar-bek-Eurib, head biotechnologist under Havapilsner I.* It depicts what was obviously the crowning achievement of Bar-bek-Eurib's career, the development of the super-chicken, capable of feeding 40 citizens or 120 slaves. A normal-sized chicken is shown for purposes of comparison. In the background are cuneiform characters spelling out a hymn of praise to Bar-bek-Eurib, reading in part, "... for it [takes] a tough Mesopotamian to make a titan chicken."
*Havapilsner himself was a scientist of note. He and Anheuser II shared the Nob-el Prize for Chemistry in 1150 BCE for the discovery of beer.
Acquired through a generous grant from the estate of Colonel and Mrs. Harland Sanders.
"Early Experiment with Genetic Engineering"
Mesopotamia (ca. 1250–1150 BCE)
3.1 x 1.4 cm
Fired clay impression from marble seal