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The Zafeiris Syrras Collection of Byzantine Lead Seals

Christos Stavrakos, University of Ioannina, Summer Fellow 2014

In order to publish Byzantine lead seals, it is necessary to be able to see a large amount of comparative material. This is mainly for two reasons: to read partly or significantly damaged pieces and to secure readings of very rare names, administrative units, or other unica. My research at Dumbarton Oaks was divided into three parts. During the first two days, I tried to become familiarized myself with the research library. During the next five weeks, I studied and checked out all seventeen thousand cards of Byzantine lead seals in the collection. In this way, I was able to find parallel pieces to those in the Syrras Collection and to secure the readings of exactly forty-six of them based on these Dumbarton Oaks parallels. It was very important that I could find very rare comparators for some pieces. It was also essential that I was able to check all the seals with monograms and their possible solutions. Because monograms and their reading are still an obscure topic in Byzantine sigillography, I shall send to Dumbarton Oaks the possible solutions that I propose for monograms of the Syrras Collection that are similar tο examples in their collection. Throughout my stay, I gathered many Russian books and articles, which are now very rare in European libraries. Because of this, I also made one visit to the Rare Book Room. Finally, I had the opportunity to present this research, along with my project on “Donor Inscriptions and Monastic Foundation Legends,” to colleagues, other fellows, and the 2014 Greek Summer School students.