Ancient Near East Seal Collection

What are they?

Let’s start at the beginning. These tiny objects, known as seals (not to be confused with the animal!), were first made around 8,000 years ago. They were stamped or rolled over clay to mark possessions, as if the impression left by the seal were a signature to show ownership, but also to protect the content marked. Made from different materials, but mostly from stone, seals were either carved on flat circular surfaces to create a stamp seal or around a long tube-shaped surface to form a cylindrical seal. Here we will explore some seals housed at the Freer and Sackler.