Recorded: May 19, 2022
Event: The World of Ancient Iran and the West
Citation: Spier, Jeffrey. "Achaemenid Seals: East and West." Pourdavoud Center: The World of Ancient Iran and the West (May 19, 2022).
by Jeffrey Spier (J. Paul Getty Museum)
After completing a D.Phil. at Merton College, Oxford, Jeffrey Spier taught classical archaeology at University College London and the University of Arizona before joining the Getty Museum as Senior Curator of Antiquities in 2014. He has published on many aspects of Greek art and iconography, gems and jewelry, numismatics, early Christian and Byzantine art, ancient magic, and the history of collecting. His books include Ancient Gems and Finger Rings: Catalogue of the Collections, The J. Paul Getty Museum (J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992); Late Antique and Early Christian Gems (Reichert, 2nd revised 2013); Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art (Yale UP, 2007); and Late Byzantine Rings, 1204–1453 (Reichert, 2013). With Timothy Potts and Sara E. Cole, he has written and edited the Getty exhibition catalogues, Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World (Getty Publishers, 2018) and Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World (Getty Publishers, 2022).
Achaemenid Seals: East and West
The use of personal seals, long employed for administrative purposes in Mesopotamia, was continued under the Achaemenids, but the imagery changed substantially, reflecting the artistic program of the royal court. Large numbers of surviving cylinder and stamp seals, along with the many seal impressions on the Persepolis Fortification and Treasury Tablets (509–458 BCE), provide a significant body of material for analysis. In addition, there are numerous stamp seals produced in the western part of the empire, very likely at Sardis and perhaps elsewhere in Asia Minor. This paper will survey the surviving material with particular attention to the possible meaning of images and consider the relationship to contemporary Greek gems.