Seals and Status: Power of Objects [Paperback]

John Cherry (Editor); Jessica Berenbeim (Editor); Lloyd de Beer (Editor)

ISBN: 9780861592135 | Published by: British Museum Press | Series: British Museum Research Publications | Volume: 213 | Year of Publication: 2018 | Language: English 225p, H297 x W210 (mm) 170

Seals and Status


For 7,000 years seals have functioned as signs of authority. This publication deals specifically with aspects of status in the history of seals, exploring this theme across a diverse range of cultural contexts—from the 9th century up to the Early Modern period, and, across the world, looking at Byzantine, European, Islamic and Chinese examples. These objects are united by the significant role they play in social status hierarchies, in the status of institutions, indications of power and finally in notions of relative status among objects themselves. In addition to their chronological and geographical diversity, these studies concentrate on many different phases of seal use. Therefore, together they highlight the importance of studying the full life cycle of seals, from the way in which they were made and used through to their cancellation, loss and sometimes destruction.

The volume will look at seals used by all members of society, from kings to fishmongers, and will examine the history of objects, with examples ranging from the medieval matrix with a classical gem showing the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius to the 17th-century Providence Island matrix from America. This publication complements the British Museum’s ongoing programme of the digitisation of the Museum’s collection of medieval seal matrices which will widen access to this fascinating body of material.

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