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Second only in number to the cylinders, those enigmatic little stamp seals of the "Later Orient" have long formed a prominent part of all large collections of Oriental glyptic art. Eighty years of oriental studies have failed to improve the label greatly and they are now usually grouped under some incorrect classification or if the curator be a cautious man, some more truthful but less illuminating title as "Mesopotamian". Yet these seals may provide us with a valuable glimpse into periods of history still only half understood and an art whose widespread ramifications and influences are scarcely now appreciated.(1)

Obviously the most important element in the identification of a sea] is the design engraved thereon, but if this is not conclusive, there are several other characteristics upon which we may rely. The technique of the engraving, the shape of the seal itself and the decoration upon the back if such there be, the inscription if any, all of these may be utilized. In the periods under consideration there is little to be gleaned from inquiry into the type of stone employed, for slight variation took place during the interval concerned. Calcedony, lapis-lazuli, banded agate, garnet, agate, nicolo, carnelian, hematite,(2) crystal,(3) red, green, brown and grey jasper,(4) amethyst,(5) were common, and more rarely ruby,(6) meteoric stone(7) or such metals as bronze,(89) were used as seal material. In Achaemenid times limestone,(10) marble,(11) and other fine grain stones(12) were utilized, a practice which does not seem to have been continued under the succeeding empires.

1. Sufficient evidence is not available to admit of anything approaching a final solution of Parthian and Sasanian glyptic problems and the present article is simply an attempt to carry forward the discussion so ably presented by Dr. H. H. von der Osten, "The Ancient Seals from the Near East in the Metropolitan Museum", The Art Bulletin, XIII, no. 2, 1931, pp. 1-21, to which the reader is referred for extensive references. Many of the conclusions reached by the present writer are based on excavated evidence not yet published or material in the hands of dealers. See also N. C. Debevoise, Parthian Seals in Pope (ed.), Persian Survey, forthcoming shortly.
2. Von der Osten, Art. Bull., XIII, 1931, p. 11.
3. L. Delaporte, Cylindres Orientaux, I, p. 80. D. 172; p. 81, D. 200; p. 83, D. 266; p, 84, D. 270.
      4. OP. cit., 1, p, 81, D. 193, D. 204, D. 212-13; p. 82, D. 218, D. 220-21, D. 224-25, D. 228, D. 231, D. 240-1, D. 250; p. 83, D. 259, and others.
5. OP. cit., I, p. 81, 1). 202, D. 206, D. 222.
6. OP. cit., I, p. 80, D. 183; p. 83, D. 265.
7. Von der Osten, Art. Bull., XIII, 1931, P. 16, fig. 53; p. 17, fig. 70.
8. OP. cit., P. 14, fig, 15-16, 20; p. 17, fig. 65, 73; p. 18, fig. 82, 88.
9. Delaporte, Cyl. Orient., 1, p. 81, D. 211.
10. Von der Osten, Art. Bull., XIII, 1931, P. 13, fig. 2; p. 14, see below, p. x, note 10, on this example.
11. Delaporte, Cyl. Orient, Il, p. 174, A. 782; p. 175, A. 791.
12. Op. cit., 1, p. 15, D. 104 "pierre brune"; Il, p. 175, A. 789 "pierre rosâtre".

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