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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Antiquities| ▸ |Antiquities by Type| ▸ |Seals||View Options:  |  |  | 

Ancient Seals

Both the objects used to make impressions and the impressions themselves are referred to as seals. Seal impressions served as a signature of the owner of the seal. Seals used to make impressions include cylinder seals and stamp seals. Often these seals are holed for stringing and some were probably never used to make impressions, but were rather worn as amulets. The most common form of seal impression is the bulla. A bulla (plural, bullae), is a lump of clay or lead molded around a cord and stamped with a seal that identifies the sender. With a bulla in place a container cannot be violated without visible damage to either the bulla or the cord, thereby ensuring the contents remain tamper-proof until they reach their destination.

Ancient Near Eastern Cylinder Seals, From the Marcopoli Collection

|Antiquities| |Books|, |Ancient| |Near| |Eastern| |Cylinder| |Seals,| |From| |the| |Marcopoli| |Collection|
Ex Libris Alex G. Malloy
BK21982. Ancient Near Eastern Cylinder Seals, From the Marcopoli Collection by Beatrice Teissier, 407 pages, 643 seals, illustrated, hardcover, dust cover wear, international shipping at actual cost of shipping, priced below FORVM's cost!; $320.00 SALE PRICE $288.00


Roman Syria-Palestina, Jewish, Lead Bulla Seal, 7 Branched Menorah, c. 5th - 6th Century A.D.

|Seals|, |Roman| |Syria-Palestina,| |Jewish,| |Lead| |Bulla| |Seal,| |7| |Branched| |Menorah,| |c.| |5th| |-| |6th| |Century| |A.D.||bulla| |(tag| |seal)|
A bulla (plural, bullae) is a lump of clay or lead molded around a cord and stamped with a seal that identifies the sender. With a bulla in place, a container cannot be violated without visible damage to either the bulla or the cord, revealing the tampering. Bullae depicting a menorah are known but very rare and not well documented. Dattari-Savio p. 327, 3 is a 1901 rubbing of a very similar menorah sealing. Michael Still lists two menorah sealings in his thesis on Roman seals, 1696 with a Latin inscription reverse, 1765 with a Hebrew inscription reverse. The recently published catalogue of the Vossen collection by Gert Boersema and Bill Dalzell, has two Menorah seals, numbers 181 and 182, both with blank reverses. There are also a few examples known from auctions. A FORVM member posted a bulla of this exact type from his collection on the Classical Numismatic Discussion on the Forum Ancient Coins website. We received three examples of this type on consignment, all with the same fire damage, suggesting they were found together.
JD98656. Lead bulla (tag seal), VF/Fair, light earthen deposits, raised bumps from exposure to an ancient fire that heated and expanded air bubbles within the lead, c. 5th - 6th century A.D.; obverse seven branched menorah with tripod base; reverse lulav, uncertain Syriac inscription (obscure); very rare; $270.00 SALE PRICE $216.00


Roman, Conical Lead Bulla Seal, c. Late 3rd Century A.D., ANAK...

|Seals|, |Roman,| |Conical| |Lead| |Bulla| |Seal,| |c.| |Late| |3rd| |Century| |A.D.,| |ANAK...||bulla| |(tag| |seal)|
 
AR83616. Lead bulla (tag seal), cf. Boersema-Dalzell 157 (very similar size and style with inscription ΠA-NΦV), gVF, weight 3.13 g, maximum diameter 13.1 mm, die axis 0o, obverse bare-headed, draped male bust right, ANAK... upward behind; reverse conical with rounded top, pierced for cord; $100.00 SALE PRICE $80.00


Roman Syria-Palestina, Jewish, Lead Bulla Seal, 7 Branched Menorah, c. 5th - 6th Century A.D.

|Seals|, |Roman| |Syria-Palestina,| |Jewish,| |Lead| |Bulla| |Seal,| |7| |Branched| |Menorah,| |c.| |5th| |-| |6th| |Century| |A.D.||bulla| |(tag| |seal)|
A bulla (plural, bullae) is a lump of clay or lead molded around a cord and stamped with a seal that identifies the sender. With a bulla in place, a container cannot be violated without visible damage to either the bulla or the cord, revealing the tampering. Bullae depicting a menorah are known but very rare and not well documented. Dattari-Savio p. 327, 3 is a 1901 rubbing of a very similar menorah sealing. Michael Still lists two menorah sealings in his thesis on Roman seals, 1696 with a Latin inscription reverse, 1765 with a Hebrew inscription reverse. The recently published catalogue of the Vossen collection by Gert Boersema and Bill Dalzell, has two Menorah seals, numbers 181 and 182, both with blank reverses. There are also a few examples known from auctions. A FORVM member posted a bulla of this exact type from his collection on the Classical Numismatic Discussion on the Forum Ancient Coins website. We received three examples of this type on consignment, all with the same fire damage, suggesting they were found together.
JD98654. Lead bulla (tag seal), VF, white lead patina, light earthen deposits, raised bumps from exposure to an ancient fire that heated and expanded air bubbles within the lead, weight 4.030 g, maximum diameter 15.9 mm, c. 5th - 6th century A.D.; obverse seven branched menorah with tripod base; reverse lulav, uncertain Syriac inscription; very rare; SOLD


Roman, Intaglio Engraved Gem Stone, 1st - 3rd century A.D.

|Jewelry|, |Roman,| |Intaglio| |Engraved| |Gem| |Stone,| |1st| |-| |3rd| |century| |A.D.|
 
AS90832. Antike Gemmen Deutschen -, Marlborough -; Intaglio engraved translucent red carnelian, weight 0.406 g, maximum diameter 11.2 mm, Dioscuri standing facing, heads confronted, each holds a bow(?) in inner hand and spear in outer hand, star above each head, crescent moon with horns up above center, from The Jimi Berlin Caesarea Collection, found at Caesarea, Israel; SOLD


Byzantine Lead Bulla Seal, Sergios Mesopotamites, Late 11th - Early 12th Century

|Byzantine| |Seals|, |Byzantine| |Lead| |Bulla| |Seal,| |Sergios| |Mesopotamites,| |Late| |11th| |-| |Early| |12th| |Century||bulla| |(tag| |seal)|
The first part of the inscription reads "Graphas sphragizo kai logous" - "I seal the writings and words of..." The last lines read the well-known family name "Mesopotamites," with eta for iota. The personal name is most likely Sergios, with one C shared by both logous and Sergios.

The Mesopotamitai were a prominent Byzantine family in the late 12th and early 13th century. They originated either from Mesopotamos (in modern Albania) or some place called Mesopotamia. Sergios was likely related to Constantine Mesopotamite, the de facto chief minister under emperors Isaac II Angelos and Alexius III Angelos (1193 - summer 1197) and the archbishop of Thessalonica (c. 1197 - 1227, but in exile 1204 - 1224, when the city was occupied by Latin Crusaders).
AS63897. Lead bulla (tag seal), unpublished in references examined by Forum; DOCBS -, Zacos BLS -, Zacos -, Jordanov -, gVF, high relief, attractive patina, weight 4.861 g, maximum diameter 16.0 mm, die axis 0o, obverse facing bust of the Virgin Orans, nimbate, wearing pallium and maphorium, MP - ΘV (Greek abbreviation: MΗTΗP ΘΕOY - Mother of God) across field; reverse ΓPA(phas) / CΦPAΓI(zo) / S ΛOΓOU(c) CE[P]/ΓIOTOU M[E]/COΠOTA/MHTOU (S abbreviates KAI and the OU's are ligate); SOLD







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REFERENCES

Andrews, C. Roman Seal-Boxes in Britain, BAR British Series 567. (Oxford, 2012).
Amorai-Stark, S., and S. & M. Hershkovitz. Gemstones, Finger Rings, and Seal Boxes from Caesarea Maritima, The Hendler Collection. (Tel Aviv, 2016).
Avigad, N, M. Heltzer & A. Lamaire. West Semitic Seals Eighth - Sixth Centuries BCE. The Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum Collection B. (Haifa, 2000).
Avigad, N. & B. Sass. Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals. (Jerusalem, 1997).
Boersema, G. & B. Dalzell. Roman Lead Tesserae and Seals from the Tom Vossen Collection. (Hasselt, Netherlands, 2021).
Buchanan, B. Ancient Near Eastern Seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection. (New Haven, 1981).
Dissard, P. La Collection Režcamier. Catalogue des Plombs antiques (sceaux, tesseres, monnaies et objets divers). (Paris-London, 1905).
Deutsch, R. Biblical Period Epigraphy, The Josef Chaim Kaufman Collection, Seals, Bullae, Handles, Second Volume. (Tel Aviv, 2011).
Deutsch, R. Biblical Period Hebrew Bullae, The Josef Chaim Kaufman Collection. (Tel Aviv, 2003).
Hattatt, R. Ancient Brooches and Other Artifacts. (Oxford, 1989).
Holmes, S. "Seal boxes from Roman London" in The London Archaeologist 7.15 (1995), pp. 391 - 395.
Jordanov, I. Corpus of Byzantine Seals from Bulgaria. (Sofia, 2003).
Jordanov, I & Z. Zhekova. Catalogue of Medieval Seals at the Regional Historical Museum of Shumen. (Sofia, 2007).
Leukel, H.-J. RŲmische Bleiplomben aus Trierer Funden. (1991 - 2015).
Metcalf, D. Byzantine Lead Seals from Cyprus. (Nicosia, 2004).
Milovanovic, B. & A. Raickovic Savic. "Seal Boxes From the Viminacium Site" in Institute of Archaeology, Belgrade, STARINAR LXIII (2013), pp. 219 - 236.
Morrisson, C. "Monnaies en plomb byzantines" in RIN LXXXIII (1981).
Nesbitt, J. et al., eds. Catalogue of Byzantine Seals at Dumbarton Oaks and the Fogg Museum of Art. (Washington, DC. 1991-2005).
Spink. Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part I. Auction 127 (7 October 1998). London.
Spink. Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part II. Auction 132 (25 May 1999). London.
Spink. Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part III. Auction 135 (6 October 1999). London.
Still, M. Roman Lead Sealings. (London, 1995).
Youroukova P. & V. Penchev. Bulgarian Medieval Coins and Seals. (Sofia, 1990).
Zacos, G. Byzantine Lead Seals. (Berne, 1972-84).
Zwalf, W. ed. Buddhism Art and Faith. (New York, 1985).

Catalog current as of Thursday, November 30, 2023.
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