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6. Moabite Seal in Bronze Bezel, c. 8th century B.C.E.

Stamp seals, like cylinder seals and medieval signet rings, were used to seal and therefore  verify economic transactions.  Unlike cylinder seals (see nos. 2-5), stamp seals were more frequently employed to seal papyrus documents. In the ancient Near East, a contract or other document would be written on papyrus, rolled, folded, and tied with string. The participants in the transaction would all impress their seals in blobs of clay placed on the knots of the string to prevent the document from being changed.  If the legal conditions of the document came into question, then the document could be unsealed and reviewed in front of a judge or a group of witnesses. The inscription on this Moabite seal reads “Belonging to Kemosh’u/or, literally, “Kemosh [=the Moabite’s patron god] is fire/light.” A four-winged deity stands in the middle.

Photograph by Bruce and Kenneth Zuckerman, West Semitic Research. Courtesy S. Moussaieff.


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