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What did they do with seals? Sealing


Well, Genius, why are you so late in coming back? I missed you... So many months I have not heard from you....

Sorry Fritz, sorry... You are right... I was on research leave, sorry for not letting you know!

Ok, how about an answer now? Have you checked your books? Can you tell me a bit about the sealing function of seals?

Yes Fritz, of course! Ok, as far as we can deduce from the evidence, which are the impressions of seals on clay objects, seals were used to seal clay and had in that capacity three basic functions.


First, they secured from anauthorized access. A piece of clay (sealing/impressed nodule) would seal an opening, say for example, that between the cover and the mouth of a vessel in which foodstuff was kept, and then it would be sealed. This way if some person broke the sealing and opened the vessel, the seal owner would know, as the former would not have the owner's seal to put fresh clay back and seal it!

Aha... I get it... But, this means that the foodstuff in the vessel could still be stolen, so there is a difference here to locks that actually hinder access to anyone who does not have the matching key...

Right! Seals signify to you that there is control (if someone messes with my property, I know it and I can search for the culprit), but, on a practical level, they do not stop you from accessing what is sealed (goods, spaces, documents).


Ok, second function?

Well, labelling... Seals would, for example, impress clay lumps that were moulded around a string hanging from an object! The seal on the lump would provide some kind of information pertinent to the object, or even the person associated with it!

Isn't this function similar to sealing clay objects? I have seen somewhere a clay vase with a seal impession on the base of its handle!

Yes! Seal faces would rarer also be impressed on formed clay objects, such as vessels and loom weights, in order to provide some kind of information. This was probably related to the manufacturer or owner of the pieces!

Ok, I get it I think... But we do not exactly know what this information was....

No, unfortunately not.... Most seals display motifs whose exact symbolism eludes us... Plus those that do have inscriptions are written in the Cretan Hieroglyphic, which we cannot understand because it is undeciphered....

I get it, I think.... And last function?

Well, seals also stamped free standing sealings that would then function as some kind of tokens, a receipt of some kind...


Yes... Say for example you provide me with goods and you need a receipt for this. I can give you back a sealing stamped with my seal in order for you to have proof that you have given me the goods. Then you could even use this sealing to get access to another service, stay in a hostel for example!!!

Oh, cool! Thank you, I get it!

Great... Sorry, I need to leave now to finish an academic article. But I will be back soon, you certainly still have a lot of questions, no?

Yes, yes... Thank you for now!!! Looking forward to your next visit!!!

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