Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt

Alexandra Villing, Marianne Bergeron, Giorgos Bourogiannis, Alan Johnston, François Leclère, Aurélia Masson and Ross Thomas

With Daniel von Recklinghausen, Jeffrey Spencer, Valerie Smallwood, Virginia Webb and Susan Woodford

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Supported by

The Leverhulme Trust
  • The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art
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Seals and seal impressions


Aurélia Masson

Seals and seal impressions are officially charged objects that witness the presence of (and/or interaction between) tradesmen, administrators, priests and other officials at Naukratis, both Egyptian and foreign. Seals usually acted as personal or official signets for commercial, administrative or various archival purposes. Although the primary function of these objects was to leave an impression, they could also be used for adornment, as an offering or as amulets.

The small corpus from Naukratis covers the Middle Bronze Age (an ‘heirloom’) to the Roman period. It also covers a wide variety of shapes, materials and devices, ranging from a refined intaglio in chalcedony and cheaper versions in glass to a cylinder-seal in ivory as well as bone and roughly carved limestone seal-stamps. The seals’ diverse styles and motifs reflect the major cultures represented at the site, not only Egyptian and Greek but also Cypriot, Levantine and Punic. Similarly, seal-impressions can display Egyptian or Greek inscriptions or motifs. Some of the seals were imported while others were produced locally, as indicated by several unfinished examples.

 Cubical stamp-seal with possible amuletic function and Cypriot origin. British Museum EA20839

Cubical stamp-seal with possible amuletic function and Cypriot origin. British Museum EA20839