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

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.


Roman, Lead Conical Bulla Seal, Early 4th Century A.D.

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The ancients did not all agree on the attributes of Serapis. A passage in Tacitus affirms that many recognized in this god, Aesculapius, imputing healing to his intervention; some thought him identical with Osiris, the oldest deity of the Egyptians; others regarded him as Jupiter, possessing universal power; but by most he was believed to be the same as Pluto, the "gloomy" Dis Pater of the infernal regions. The general impression of the ancients seems to have been that by Serapis, was to be understood the beginning and foundation of things. Julian II consulted the oracle of Apollo for the purpose of learning whether Pluto and Serapis were different gods; and he received for an answer that Jupiter-Serapis and Pluto were one and the same divinity.
AS83610. Lead seal, aEF, weight 8.022 g, maximum diameter 17.4 mm, early 4th Century A.D.; obverse diademed, draped, bearded, bust of Serapis right, kalathos(?) on head; reverse conical back, pierced for cord; $160.00 SALE |PRICE| $144.00


Roman, Lead Conical Bulla Seal, Aristanetos, Early 4th Century A.D.

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The portrait indicates an early 4th century date. It is the personal seal of Aristanetos, as the Greek genitive legend indicates. Many personal seals from the late Roman and Byzantine eras feature the owner's portrait.
AS85926. Lead seal, cf. MŁnzzentrum auction 157 (2011), lot 552, aVF, weight 9.060 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, early 4th Century A.D.; obverse APICT-ANETOV, draped bust of a slightly balding middle-aged man with sideburns; reverse conical back, pierced for cord; $100.00 SALE |PRICE| $90.00


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; $45.00 SALE |PRICE| $40.50







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Catalog current as of Tuesday, January 28, 2020.
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Ancient Seals