Cylinder Seals

CYLINDER SEALS (see Writing). A small cylinder of metal, stone, baked clay, frit or other hard substance on which was usually engraved a design (commonly a religious scene) and/or the name and patronymic of the owner. Before the introduction of writing and until the 7th cent. b.c. such seals were used alongside stamp seals. Thereafter the seal set in a signet ring gradually predominated (Jer 22:24; Hag 2:23) Seals were used to mark personal attestation (1 Kings 21:8), ownership or security (Job 14:17; 41:15). They were worn mounted on a pin attached to a garment or strung longitudinally and hung about the neck (Gen 38:18), and by some were considered to have amuletic powers. The seal was applied by rolling over the clay when a document was still soft, thus leaving a clear impression upon it (cf. Job 38:14). Periodic changes in fashions both of designs or materials mean that the seal is useful for typological and chronological purposes.

Bibliography

H. Frankfort, Cylinder Seals (A Documentary Essay on the Art and Religion of the Ancient Near East), rep. ed. (1965).