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Haematite seal

 

Height: 3.000 cm
Diameter: 2.900 cm

ME 115655

Middle East

    Haematite seal

    Hittite, around 1400 BC
    From Yozgat, modern Turkey

    This seal dates to the period of expansion by the Hittites which led to their power being acknowledged from the Aegean coast to Syria. The seal was acquired near the Hittite capital of Hattusa (now Bogazköy)

    The Hittites used the cylinder seal along with the stamp seal, but in the Empire Period (1400-1200 BC) stamp seals predominate. Haematite was used because, though it is a hard stone and difficult to cut, it produces a very sharp impression and is resistant to wear. The handle on this seal is, however, broken.

    In the centre of this seal is the name and title of the owner written in Hittite hieroglyphs. The design around it shows a seated god holding a bird with, behind him, a stag's head and two legs, a hunting bag, quiver (?), two spears and a tree, and, in front of the god, an altar, a bird-headed figure pouring a libation (liquid offering) and a king making an offering; two bull-men kneel on either side of a sun-disc on a stand. The same scenes appear together on other Hittite seals and on a silver stag-shaped drinking cup. They must have had a special significance. The earliest examples of Hittite hieroglyphs date to around 1500 BC and they were in use for around 800 years. They record a language called Luwian, which is related to Hittite.

    Seals like this may have been used in the many towns in Anatolia which contained palaces and storehouses, called by the Hittites 'seal-houses'. The storehouse administrators were extremely important officials and the movement of goods throughout the empire was monitored in the storehouses. They served as collection points for royal income, both for grain and other agricultural products, and for textiles and metals. Extensive business links were also made with Babylonia , Egypt, Lycia, Cyprus and north Syrian states. Wooden writing boards were probably used and may have been sealed. Clay tablets were often sealed as a mark of authority and for security.

    D.G. Hogarth, Hittite seals (Oxford University Press, 1920)

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