Haematite seal


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This seal dates to the period of expansion by the Hittite Empire 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 both cylinder and stamp-seals, but in the Empire Period (1400-1200 BC) stamp seals dominated. Haematite was used because, though it is a hard stone and difficult to cut, it produces a sharp image when it is pressed into damp clay and is resistant to wear. Records were made on clay tablets and then marked with a seal as a sign of authority and for security. Stamped pieces of clay may also have kept closed records made on wooden writing boards or the door latches for storerooms. Access could only be made by breaking the dried clay seal.

In the centre of this seal is the name and title of the owner; the person responsible for using the seal. It is written in Hittite hieroglyphs. The design around it shows a seated god holding a bird. In the background there are a stag's head and two legs, a hunting bag, quiver, two spears and a tree. In front of the god, there is an altar, a bird-headed figure pouring an offering, and a king making an offering; two bull-headed men kneel on either side of a sun-disc on a stand. These designs must have had a special significance, because similar scenes appear on other Hittite seals.

Seals like this were used in storehouses that served as collection points for royal income, such as grain, agricultural products, textiles and metals. The storehouse administrators were extremely important officials and monitored the movement of goods throughout the empire. Business links existed with southern Iraq, Egypt, Cyprus and north Syria.

Show lessRead more
  • Title: Haematite seal
  • Date Created: -1400/-1400
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 3.00cm; Diameter: 2.90cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: mammal; bird; religious object; musical instrument; deity; arms/armour; sun/moon; tree/bush
  • Registration number: 1886,1020.1
  • Place: Found/Acquired Bogazk
  • Material: hematite
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Edwards, R J A