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Ancient Seals

Antiquities authenticated and attributed by Alex G. Malloy. 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 many 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.


Theodosius I, 19 January 379 - 17 January 395 A.D.

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This type of lead conical bulla seal is commonly attributed to Theodosius I with his sons, Arcadius and Honorius. While the attribution is not certain, there is reason behind it. The form is correct for the period and the type is very common for a seal. Forum has handled a few examples and there are at least four on Coin Archives. The large number of specimens supports attribution to the emperor, in whose name there was a lot of correspondence. Theodosius and his two sons are the best imperial fit for these three facing busts.
AS89555. Lead bulla (tag seal), conical type, commonly attributed to Theodosius I and his sons Arcadius and Honorius, VF, gray and buff surfaces, weight 9.316 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, obverse three bare-headed and draped busts facing, center bust larger, two flanking busts smaller; reverse domed back, pierced for the cord; ex CNG e-auction 233 (26 May 2010), lot 504; $150.00 (Ä132.00)


Lot of 3 Roman Lead Conical Bulla Seals, c. 2nd - 4th Century A.D.

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During the Byzantine period, lead bullae (singular, Bulla) were widely used to seal and identify the sender of correspondence and containers in shipment. An iron, pliers-shaped instrument, a boulloterion, was used to impress the designs on a lead bulla seal. After the cord was wrapped around the package or document and the ends inserted in a channel in the blank seal, the seal was placed between the disk shaped engraved dies on the jaws of a boulloterion. The boulloterion had a projection above the jaws, which was struck with a hammer to impress the design on the seal and close the channel around the two ends of the cord. With a bulla in place a container cannot be violated without visible damage to either the bulla or the cord, ensuring the contents remain tamper-proof until they reach their destination.
AS89420. Lot of 3 lead conical bulla seals, c. 2nd - 4th Century A.D.; the actual seals in the photographs; $50.00 (Ä44.00)


Proto-Elamite (South-Western Iran), Cylinder Seal, 3000 - 2500 B.C.

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The Elamites called their country Haltamti, but it is Elam in the Hebrew Bible, where they are called the offspring of Elam, eldest son of Shem (Genesis 10:22, Ezra 4:9). To the east of Mesopotamia, Elam was part of the early urbanization during the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age). Written records from around 3000 B.C. parallel Mesopotamian history. In the Old Elamite period (Middle Bronze Age), Elam consisted of kingdoms on the Iranian plateau, centered in Anshan, and from the mid-2nd millennium BC, it was centered in Susa in the Khuzestan lowlands. Its culture played a crucial role in the short lived Gutian Empire of the 22nd century B.C. During the Persian Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded Elam, the Elamite language remained among those in official use.
AS48860. Cylinder seal; cf. Amiet 1028 - 1029, Choice, carved black steatite, drill and linear design with two animals and tree, 23 mm long, ex Alex G. Malloy Sale, 5/99, #1329; SOLD







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Catalog current as of Thursday, August 22, 2019.
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Ancient Seals