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Seals and Society in the Medieval World

Where
Virtual Webinar
When
October 29, 2021
09:00 AM
Scholars working on seals from Byzantine, European, and Middle Eastern medieval contexts bring innovative, comparative perspectives to a specialized discipline entering a new phase.

To mark the completion of the Dumbarton Oaks Online Catalogue of Byzantine Seals in 2021, Dumbarton Oaks is hosting a colloquium to explore the production, function, inscriptions, iconographic designs, and significance of seals. Building on the instant accessibility to the Byzantine seals collection and the research possibilities made available by the online catalogue, this colloquium invites scholars working on seals from Byzantine, European, and Middle Eastern medieval contexts to discuss and engage with each other’s material and to bring innovative, comparative perspectives to a specialized discipline entering a new phase.

The use and role of seals—documentary, diplomatic, literary, metaphorical, apotropaic, astrological, and medical—were contingent upon specific notions of materiality and representation. Seals were thus dynamic agents in cultural encounters. The materials, manufacture, and types of seals in the cultures within the colloquium’s scope, as well as their meanings and usages, were quite different from one another, and scholars have taken different approaches to their study and publication. Western seals tended to display more complex images with simple inscriptions, whereas in the Byzantine world texts of varying length and complexity often accompanied rich iconographic content. Equally different are the contexts in which seals from the different parts of the medieval world are found today and studied. Byzantine seals tend to be found detached from their original documents, in museum collections or archaeological contexts, whereas western seals are found in archival repositories, and their study is more likely linked to the fields of diplomatics, literacy, and documentary practices. 

Colloquiarchs: Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak (New York University), Eric McGeer (Dumbarton Oaks), and Jonathan Shea (Dumbarton Oaks)

Speakers

  • John Cotsonis (His Grace Bishop Joachim of Amissos), Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
  • Christopher Mielke, Beverly Heritage Center
  • Elizabeth New, Prifysgol Aberystwyth University
  • Markus Späth, Justus Liebig University Giessen
  • Christos Stavrakos, University of Ioannina
  • Nicholas Vincent, University of East Anglia
  • Laura J. Whatley, Auburn University at Montgomery
  • Mustafa Yıldız, University of California, Berkley
Byzantine and Crusader seals from the collections of Dumbarton Oaks and the Fogg Museum of Art