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Experiments with Cylinder Seals

Mesopotamian cylinder seals were usually rolled across wet clay, leaving an impression that served as a seal or a “signature” of an individual or a family. Clay seemed easier for us to carve than stone, so we made our own seals, using chopsticks and toothpicks to etch them.

Etching the clay

Completed seals

One of the seals had a number of ankhs carved into it. I’m not sure what the ancient Mesopotamians would have thought about that.


However, our seals were made from inferior, modern clay–you know–the kind that doesn’t harden so that children can sculpt with it over and over again? Very easy on Mom and Dad’s pocketbook but not so good for rolling in paint or across a stamp pad.

So we got creative. And more modern. We switched to foam. Using a pencil, Sam etched her cylinder signature onto a piece of craft foam.

Etching onto foam

Then we rolled the foam into a cylinder.

Foam cylinder seal

And rolled the cylinder across wet paint.

Wet paint

VoilĂ :
The printed result
Not so recognizable by modern or ancient standards, but it was an interesting craft experiment. For next time I’ve promised Sam that I’ll shell out for some proper hardening clay and we’ll try again.

18 July 2011

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