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Working with Seals

I have seen the seals, Jack did not exaggerate. They are of enormous interest; many of them superb as works of art; and many more of the greatest historical interest.
Letter from Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, August 12, 1952


Dumbarton Oaks is home to 17,000 Byzantine seals, the largest collection in the world. Since the arrival of the first seals at Dumbarton Oaks in 1947, five generations of scholars have worked to understand and catalogue these objects and apply this data to enhance our understanding of the Byzantine Empire. The first step is simply reading the inscription and identifying symbols or figures shown on the seal—both often easier said than done. Once the seal has been deciphered, we can begin to create a picture of the owner, and through them, Byzantium.


Exhibit Items