Posted by: imalqata | February 24, 2014

Mud, the Ancient Sealing Wax

Monday, February 24, 2014
About a week ago, Timsah, one of our excavators in the North Village, uncovered a small piece of mud ling on the floor of one of the rooms he was cleaning. It had the impression of an oval stamp with the throne name of Amenhotep III, Nebmaatre. The ancient Egyptians used mud to seal documents the way our ancestors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used sealing wax.

Nebmaatre written vertically

Nebmaatre written vertically

During the Metropolitan Museum’s excavations a century ago, dozens of mud sealings were uncovered. Many of them had one or another of the names of Amenhotep III, but none is of the impressions is exactly like the one Timsah found.

PA.7   PA.11  PA.22Nebmaatre written horizontally, vertically, and between two winged cobras

The Egyptians used mud to seal things besides documents. They would hold the tops of small jars in place by covering it with a piece of linen and tying the cloth in place around the neck of the jar. Then they would put a small piece of wet mud on the knot and press it with a stamp. They would also cover the mouths of large storage jars with mud that could be stamped with an official seal.

Sealed jar (detail). Gift of Theodore M. Davis, 1911 (11.155.7)

Sealed jar (detail). Gift of Theodore M. Davis, 1911 (11.155.7)

At the Museum we have a painted mud sealing stamped with the name of Amenhotep III. It had sealed a large jar that may have been used to transport some of the food used for Amenhotep’s Heb-Sed at Malqata. The two ovals on the top of the stopper enclose the words “house of Amenhotep,” which may refer to the palace at Malqata (the ancient name for the site was the “House of Rejoicing”). The stamp on the side repeats the name Amenhotep and identifies the contents, a type of liquid.

Painted jar sealing. Rogers Fund, 1936 (36.2.4)

Painted jar sealing. Rogers Fund, 1936 (36.2.4)

Catharine Roehrig

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