Ancient Near East Seal Collection

User Guide

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In This Catalogue


Ancient seals are among the most intriguing objects of the ancient Near East. Here, a general introduction of what seals are and how they were used is briefly described, along with two videos demonstrating how these seals were impressed.


Various approaches allow you to observe all pieces currently included in this online catalogue. Search contents with the faceted search tool or type in a common keyword. View curator-selected highlights of the collection. Use the place filter to see where ancient Near Eastern seals were used, or browse the entire contents of this catalogue through the infinite search. Once you access entries, you can read a description of the seal and bibliographic references.


This map aims to showcase regions where ancient Near Eastern seals were used. In addition, examples of seals are provided to show a typical seal that could have been carved in that region. None of the seals in the collection have an archaeological context, as they come from private collections and their origins are based on comparative studies with seals found in archaeological sites.


This section includes essays written by scholars specialized in seals from a specific period and will include additional essays in the future.


Ernst Herzfeld’s drawings and photographs of seals, as well as his iconographic studies, are included in this catalogue as a source of information on ancient Near Eastern seal documentation in the early 1900s.

For Kids

Two activities are available to give kids the opportunity to experiment making a seal and to allow them to understand their uses.


Publications on seals are available under this tab along with website links to online projects produced.

Download Images

Feel free to download high-resolution images for non-commercial use only. Review the rights statement and terms of use at the end of each object entry before you click on Save this image. Credit all images with “Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.”