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Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


A device impressed on a piece of plastic material as a mark of ownership or evidence of authenticity. Seals made of stone, clay, metal and other hard materials have been used in various forms throughout history. In neolithic Mesopotamia the practice of impressing seals with geometric, human and animal forms on clay may well have been a decisive step in the development of writing. Both stamp seals and cylinder seals which were rolled across the wet clay to render a continuous impression had great vogue not only in Assyria and Babylonia but also beyond these limits in a wide area from Anatolia to India ( Figure 7 ). Cylinder seals continued to be used for signatures when writing was fully developed. Pierced longitudinally, they were carried by their owners on a string around the neck. Since they are made of very durable material, many cylinder seals bearing elaborately incised scenes and inscriptions have been excavated throughout the ancient Near East. A much larger number have been preserved in the form of their impressions on clay tablets. Documents were commonly signed in this way, with several seals belonging to the scribe and the parties involved in whatever transaction was recorded. Figure 7 A Babylonian cylinder seal from Ur, third dynasty, c.2050 bce : two deities introduce Hashamer, governor of the city of Ishkun-Sin, to King Ur-Nammu (British Museum) See also T oken ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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