Conference Proceedings

How to Create “Administrative” Iconographies? The Bestiary of the Sasanian Glyptic



This study focuses on the bestiary of Iran in late antiquity, in an administrative context of sealing (seals and bullae) and within an administration characterized by a close relationship with the Zoroastrian Church. Its objective is to understand how man's interrelationship with his environment enters into the production of images of an administrative nature. This study therefore compares the bestiary as represented in the glyptic, what we know about fauna in the Sasanian period and human-animal relations, and what we know about Iran's beliefs in late antiquity, particularly through Zoroastrian texts. This confrontation makes it possible to determine what, in iconography, is or is not related to man's relationship with his natural environment. From there, we try to understand the semantic value attached to this relationship, or whether it is to be sought outside this relationship. It appears that the level of human interaction with animals is inversely proportional to the use of the animal as a bestiary's image: the closer an animal is to humans (domestication, breeding), the less visible it is in the seals. In this context, we see an over-representation of wildlife. However, a low level of interaction does not prevent the creation of images that reflect the observation and knowledge of wildlife and domestic fauna during the Sasanian period. Since the images of the bestiary are used in an administrative context, the animals selected belong mainly to the semantic field of royalty and Zoroastrianism, even if they probably do not have a single interpretation. Sometimes these semantic fields are in contradiction, and we find, in the reality of fauna, elements that adapt one to the other.


How to Cite: Poinsot, D. (2022) “How to Create “Administrative” Iconographies? The Bestiary of the Sasanian Glyptic”, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. 33(1). doi: