A seal comprises of a design carved onto a hard material: although most often made of stone, there are also examples rendered in bone, ivory, faience, glass, metal, wood, and even sun-dried or baked clay. Both the material and the scene carved on the seal might have been ascribed with protective qualities. In the ancient world, seals guaranteed the authenticity of marked ownership – as such, they were instrumental in legal transactions, and in the protection of goods against theft. Mesopotamia has been regarded as the cradle of ancient glyphic arts, with the earliest cylinder seals proven to have been firstly executed during the Bronze Age, circa 4th Millennium BC. Each following period in ancient Mesopotamian history contributed in developing styles and techniques of glyphic arts, making seals important in determining chronological phases by providing a visual chronical of style and iconography. Ancient Syrian glyptic arts were greatly impacted by contemporary Mesopotamian cylinder seals.
For more on cylinder seals, see our relevant blog post: Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals