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ESSAY -minoanSeals - Yilan Shi Classics 10 TA Mac Marston...

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Yilan Shi Classics 10, TA: Mac Marston April 24, 2009 Minoan Seals: Ancient Versions of Signatures and Stamps The function of Minoan seals have varied from amuletic to administrative depending on the time period and social organization. What began as a tradition of crafting seals for their talismanic purposes and magical properties evolved into using them for economic bookkeeping due to increased cross-cultural contact and military alliances. The emergence of the seal’s administrative use accompanied the implementation of harder stones used to make them, which suggests that new crafting technology were adopted from Egypt and other cultures. Their ancient significance prevails in the modern world; today, the personal signature and postal stamps all trace their origins to Minoan seals. The practice of using engraved stones to seal pottery or clay was thought to have originated from Egypt and the Middle East. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of seals appear during the First Palatial period in Crete. Before, before these seals were used for administrative and practical purposes, they were first used for amuletic purposes in the Early Minoan Period (Stubbings 153-154). One example is the three-sided prism seal. This seal takes on a unique and easily distinguishable shape: the side that pressed down is triangular, with the body forming a long, prism-cylindrical shape. This seal has been suggested to be of purely an amuletic origin. This is because they were not very widespread and only found in central and northern Crete (Hood 196). If a seal was used for administrative purposes, it would be logical that they would appear in multiple excavation sites throughout the Cretan island. The seals might have also been used to ward off evil spirits. In excavations in Egypt, many round stone seals were found in the tombs of females and children. They were sometimes hung from a string around the neck, clasped in hands, or worn on a string around the fingers (Ward 66). This evidence suggests that seals were
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used as amulets and magical charms. However, the uses of these seals were not fixed like their designs in the stones were. Over time, historical events and cultural contact led to a distinct change in the use of seals. With the progression of the Minoan civilization, the use of these seals changed over time. At the onset of the early Late Minoan period, these seals began to be used for administration and bookkeeping. There is still speculation surrounding why these seals diverged from their amuletic roles, but it is believed that elite administrators adopted seals to aid them in keeping track of trade goods (Dickinson 191). Then the question beckons why Minoans did not use seals at the height of their international influence and sea- faring trade, which took place largely in the Middle Bronze Age. A possible rationalization is that the Minoans did not see the need for seals while goods were abundant and had a confident, optimistic attitude about their civilization. As their thalocrassy entered a decline in the 1600’s BCE (Morris 63), Minoans
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