Sumerian Cuneiform Cylinder Seal, Iraq, 3000 BCE
Seals were most often made of stone but also sometimes of bone, ivory, faience, glass, metal, wood, or even sun-dried or baked clay. A recessed inscription was carved onto the cylinder, which produced a raised impression when rolled on a clay tablet or envelope. Cylinder seals were used to protect vessels, clay envelopes and storeroom door latches from tampering. They guaranteed authenticity, marked ownership, indicated participation in a legal transaction and protected goods against theft.
Method of Construction
Constructed by: Tanja Gohlert
This reconstruction is based on an inscription on a clay envelope in the Rare Book Collection at Smith. The inscription is the only one in the group that has human figures: a seated deity/priest, a standing goddess/priestess and a bareheaded worshipper. This zinc seal was made by carving the inscription into a piece of wax and then making a plaster mold into which the zinc was poured. The end product is a bit larger than the original and not quite as detailed.
Sources, Resources and Links
Collon, Dominique. Interpreting the Past: Near Eastern Seals. Berkeley, CA: U of California P, 1990.
Collon, Dominique. First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.