A Byzantine Seal Blank, ca. 10th - 11th Century CE
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In order to produce a lead seal, one first had to obtain a blank lead disk with a channel running through it such as this example. Such disks, either completely flat or with a raised central channel, were produced by casting. Slate molds for their production have been found in the excavations at Corinth; each shows a deep groove meant to receive a wire which, when removed from the casting, would leave the necessary channel. Of course, proper alignment of the two halves of the mold was important, and in order to ensure it, molds have small depressions – and corresponding mounds – near their edges. But occasionally the fit was not perfect and there are seals with an overlap or projection of metal halfway between their two surfaces. The diameter of blanks varied considerably from under one centimeter to almost eight centimeters for especially large seals; the most common formats range between 1.5 and 4.5 cm. One may imagine that in larger cities – particularly Constantinople – lead blanks of all sizes were available, but in more remote localities it is clear that only some sizes were cast, for seals of provincial officials survive that were consistently struck on undersized blanks. (Oikonomides, Nicolas “Byzantine Lead Seals” Dumbarton Oaks 1985, page 5, #4a-c.).
Condition: Intact in good condition overall.
PLEASE NOTE: THE WHITE COATING ON EARLY LEAD SEALS IS LEAD OXIDE AND VERY TOXIC IF INGESTED. LEAD SEALS MUST BE HANDLED WITH CARE AND SHOULD NEVER BE HANDLED BY CHILDREN UNLESS UNDER SUPERVISION.
Dimensions: Width: 1 cm (1/2 inch)
Provenance: Private California collection, ex Malter galleries.