Seal makes a corny cameo with a goat…

No, I’m afraid we don’t have any bizarre showbiz gossip for you today, just a fantastic little intaglio!

A tiny carved intaglio (c) MOLA 2013

A tiny carved intaglio (c) MOLA 2013

Intaglios are carved gemstones or small blobs of glass that would once have been mounted in a ring. The design is made in reverse (something that is more obvious on intaglios with text) by carving into the surface of the stone. This means that when the ring is pressed into wax it will leave a raised relief image on the seal.

Our intaglio appears to show a goat leaping over an ear of corn. Both goats and corn are common motifs on Classical intaglios. Ears of corn are often used as symbols of fertility, whilst goats are sometimes connected with Mercury or Bacchus.

Closeup of the uncleaned intaglio (c) MOLA 2013

Closeup of the uncleaned intaglio (c) MOLA 2013

The intaglio is so thin that it becomes translucent when cleaned and held up to the light. Finds like this can’t be located with metal detectors, so it really demonstrates the value of professional archaeologists (and I’m not just saying that because I found it).

Look what I found!!!

Look what I found!!!

These stones would have been used to seal letters and legal documents, such as those written down in triptych writing tablets, in place of a signature. Personal seals are still used in a similar way in Japan.

The Romans also carved gemstones with images in relief that were designed to be looked at on the stone. These are known as cameos and were probably not used as seals.

As with all our finds, this is on it’s way back to the main MOLA office to be cleaned and looked at by our specialists.

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One thought on “Seal makes a corny cameo with a goat…

  1. I really enjoy all these posts, I have a mini obsession about the Romans and you all show such enthusiasm, and hard work with bundles of humour,and a lot of teamwork. Keep it coming!

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