Biblical Archaeology Review 39:5, September/October 2013

Strata: How Many?

How many seals appear in the first four volumes of Othmar Keel’s corpus of seals from Israel and Palestine, covering only archaeological sites beginning with letters A–H?

Answer: 5,597

Seals were used frequently in the lands of the Bible and served a variety of purposes, the primary one being a form of identification, much like the modern signature. When sending a letter, the author would seal the document by pressing his stamp seal into a lump of clay, applied to the document or to a string wrapped around the document. This was done to avoid tampering with the document and to identify the sender. Sometimes seals were also worn as amulets or jewelry. The vast number of seals found throughout ancient Israel gives us important clues about the Biblical world, including personal and site names as well as iconography. Imported seals, such as scarabs from Egypt, testify to foreign influence, trade, interaction or presence at sites in the southern Levant, which is important for understanding and reconstructing history.

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