A Real Gem


As you’ll know from my previous post on bullae (i.e. Hellenistic terracotta seals, the impressions of signet rings) I think that the connections between engraved gems and coins haven’t been adequately exploited. Gem collections are still far more under cataloged than coin collections, but in the digital revolution more and more are thankfully going online, sometimes pre-publication. This creates problems regarding how to search. What terms will bring up in the right results? I was looking to get a sense of how often trophies appear on seal rings and up popped the image above. Rudders as symbols of fortune are pretty common on seal rings, but that isn’t a trophy above it. The photo is poor but I definitely see Hercules’ club from the top of which emerges a caduceus. Those might be palm branches but ears of grain (corn for our British friends) are more (?) common on these types of seals and I’m going with poppies for fertility on either side and maybe a plow below the rudder. A real mash up of symbols, rich pickings for many a scholar, but not really find-able as it is currently listed. Google image and that major social media site we’re all addicted to now do image searches base on similarity and facial recognition. There is no marketability in such an academic application, but that type of search technology could revolutionize our visual databases. The computer-aided die-study, of course, being the most seductive allusive dream. As more and more visual data comes on line we’ll need to get better about how we can sort and access it.

At very least working more “wiki” functionality into our academic databases would allow random users to leave notes or comments that might aid the project as a whole.