Sealing of Semerkhet

From the king's tomb at Abydos, Egypt
1st Dynasty, around 2850 BC

Part of a royal clay seal

From the earliest times, one of the most common ways of sealing jars was to seal them with a mass of mud. Very soon in Egyptian history, it became customary to make some sort of mark in the mud to identify ownership or provenance of the jar and contents. The cylinder seal came into use in Egypt at the very beginning of the historical period and a considerable number of early inscriptions were made with it. The seal was carved with an inscription and could be rolled back and forth on the mud to produce an impression.

This example belongs to the reign of Semerkhet, the last-but-one king of the First Dynasty (about 3100-2890 BC) and is from one of the jars placed in his tomb as part of the provisions for his Afterlife. In addition to his name, it bears some hieroglyphs inside a rectangular enclosure. These signs perhaps name a building that could have been a wine cellar.

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More information


A.J. Spencer, Catalogue of Egyptian antiqu-4 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)


Length: 11.000 cm (max.)

Museum number

EA 32670


Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund


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