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The shapes of Aegean seals


Hey, Genius...

Yo Fritz!

Where have you been?

Sorry, I have been very busy trying to bring a monograph to an end.

A monograph?

Yes, a specialist's study devoted to a single subject! I have finished a manuscript about sealings from Kato Zakros.

A, ok, but you've forgotten about me.

Tell me what you want to know.

There seem to be so many shapes of seals, I'm very confused and I don't know where to start from...

Ok, yes, you are right... Ok, in order to categorise a seal, you first need to look whether it is equivalent to a geometrical shape. A cone-shaped seal, for example, is a conoid whereas a triangular prism-shaped one is a three-sided prism. There are, however, also cases in which we name the seals on the basis of their resemblance to shapes of physical entities. For example, a biconvex lens-shaped seal is a lentoid; and an almond-shaped one is an amygdaloid, the word has been derived from the Greek word for almond (αμύγδαλο). In these cases, the seal shapes do not necessarily allude to the objects they have been named after. We just name them so as we need a terminology that makes sense to us.

Ah, ok.

But wait, there are also seals whose back has been purposefully formed to resemble physical entities known from the material world. For example, this is a zoomorphic seal in the shape of a monkey. Apart from zoomoprhic seals there are also anthropomorphic ones, for example, a seal in the shape of a woman. There are even a few seals in the shapes of objects, for example, this one in the shape of a jug.


Aha... Ok, understood, thank you!

Well, of course have tried to give you a very general orientation so that you understand that the main factor for determining the shape of a seal is actually its form and the way this relates to geomentrical shapes or physical entities. You will find a good overview of Aegean seal shapes here!

Ok, thank you... But you know what confuses me? The string-hole channel... In some it looks like a line but in others it is more complex.

Yes, you are right. There are many types of string-hole channels. The one that looks like a line is the simplest type, it extends from one edge of the seal to the other. But there are more complex configurations, like Δ-, Π-, and V-shaped string-hole channels. A few seals have two simple parallel perforations, the so-called double string-hole channels! The form of the perforation must be connected with the manner in which the seal hung from the string. The complex string-holes would serve to keep the seal hunging in the body in a very specific manner.

Ok, I understand, the choice of the string-hole channel is related to the manner in which the seal should stand on the body when hung.


Thank you!

Wait, there is a last piece of information to consider when you describe a seal! The number of seal faces... There are seals with one engraved face (seal face) and others with more than one engraved face! Among the latter ones, the most common are those with two-, three- and four seal faces. However, there are also a few with more engraved faces, for example an eight-sided prism and a stab with fourteen seal faces!


When a seal shape bears, as a rule, one engraved face, you simply name the relevant seals after their shape, e.g., lentoids. But when a lentoid has two engraved faces, which is uncommon, it is good for you to mention this information in its description: lentoid with two seal faces.

Aha, ok. I understand but as it is getting complicated, can we finish for now?

Yes, of course!

Thank you!

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