The curious collection of a slightly mad scientist
Classical scholars from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” made an unusually large find of seals in an ancient sanctuary in Turkey. They discovered more than 600 stamp seals and cylinder seals at the sacred site of the storm and weather god Jupiter Dolichenus, 100 of which in the current year alone. “Such large amounts of seal consecrations are unheard-of in any comparable sanctuary”, said excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter and archaeologist Dr. Michael Blömer at the end of the excavation season. In this respect, the finding of numerous pieces from the 7th to the 4th centuries B.C. close to the ancient city of Doliche is unparalleled.
“The amazingly large number proves how important seals and amulets were for the worshipping of the god to whom they were consecrated as votive offerings”, according to Classical scholar Prof. Winter. Many pieces show scenes of adoration. “Thus, they provide a surprisingly vivid and detailed insight into the faith of the time.” The stamp seals and cylinder seals as well as scarabs, made of glass, stone and quartz ceramics, were mostly crafted in a high-quality manner. Following the restoration work, the finds were handed over to the relevant museum in Gaziantep in Turkey.
Different themes can be found on the seals and amulets: the spectrum ranges from geometric ornaments and astral symbols to elaborate depictions of animals and people. This includes, for example, praying men in front of divine symbols. Another popular theme was a royal hero fighting animals and hybrid creatures. “Even those images that do not depict a deity express strong personal piety: with their seals, people consecrated an object to their god which was closely associated with their own identity”, said Blömer. People wore the amulets found with the seals in everyday life. “Strung on chains, they were supposed to fend off bad luck”, explained the archaeologist.
From the Iron Age until the Roman Empire
Up to now, the researchers were able to identify late Babylonian, local Syrian Achaemenid and Levantine seals. “The large find provides new impetus for research to answer unsolved questions of cult practices, cult continuity and cult extension – above all, these are important for the understanding of the early history of the sanctuary in the 1st millennium B.C., which had been unknown until recently”, according to Prof. Winter. Later, in the 2nd century A.D., Jupiter Dolichenus turned into one of the most important deities of the Roman Empire. …
Only a few were found to have magical properties, such as the ability to heal paper cuts, hypnotize horses, and bring on a rain of frogs. 😉