Seal Rings and Bullae from the End of the First Temple Period

The most important item an administrative official had in the Iron Age in the Ancient Near East was his seal ring. A ring seal is a ring made of some metal with a stone affixed to it that had the name, title, and/or sign of its owner engraved on it backward (so that the writing appeared properly once the ring was pressed into the sealing material). The lump of fresh clay that the seal ring was pressed into is called a bulla; the bulla declared the source of the object on which it sat. When papyrus became the common object for writing, every official document was rolled up, tied with string (often several strings), and, on the string’s knot, a lump of clay that was impressed with the owner’s ring seal was placed to secure the document.