The Rosette Symbol
A rosette is a round, stylized flower design, used extensively in sculptural objects from antiquity. The rosette derives from the natural shape of a rosette in botany, formed by leaves radiating out from the stem of a plant and visible even after the flowers have withered.
The formalised flower motif is often in carved in stone or wood to create decorative ornaments for architecture and furniture. It was a common motif in metalworking, jewelry design and the applied arts at the intersection of two materials, or to form a decorative border.
One of the earliest appearances of the rosette in ancient art is a carved ivory disk from a child’s burial at the Late Aurignacian site in Sungir, Russia, dated to about 28,000 years ago. Clearly the rosette has a very old history, dating back to the times of the Cave Paintings of Europe, and the Great Flood, or earlier.
This motif was widespread throughout Europe and the Near East. Adopted later in Romaneseque and Renaissance, and also common in the art of Central Asia, spreading as far as India where it is used as a decorative motif in Greco-Buddhist art. Rosette decorations have been used for formal military awards. They are also used to decorate musical instruments, such as around the perimeter of sound holes of guitars.
It’s not know for certain what particular symbolism the Sumerians attached to the eight-pointed rosette, but it occurs throughout their cultural history. It can be seen on shell plaques, on the headdresses, and on many other artifacts.
Inanna’s symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. She was associated with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty).
Inanna was associated with the celestial planet Venus. There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky.
Steatite, Stamp seal, North Mesopotamia, Gawra period, c.3300 BC
Inanna’s symbol, the eight-pointed star or rosette, appears between the pincers of two scorpions on the square face of this stamp seal
Cult scene: the worship of the sun-god, Shamash. Limestone cylinder-seal, Mesopotamia
Ram in a Thicket, Ur, Southern Iraq, 2600-2400 BC
Puabi (Akkadian: “Word of my father”), Ur, during the First Dynasty of Ur (ca. 2600 BCE)
Queen Pu-abi’s attendants, who were sacrificed to serve her in the afterlife
A shell plaque found in Queen Pu-abi’s tomb
– It shows ibexes rearing up on their hind legs to feed on the leaves of a high branch.
Note the eight-pointed rosette in the cente
Rosette designs from Meyer’s Handbook of Ornament
– Black marble (formerly inlaid), found in Warka (ancient city of Uruk), Djemdet-Nasr period (ca. 3000 BC)
Phaistos Disc, Phaistos, Minoan Crete, ca. 1700 BC
Assyrian Tree of Life
The Ishtar Gate, Babylon, 575 BC
Rosette design at the bottom of a statue of the Buddha, Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, circa 1st century CE