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Limestone pharmacy seal for terra sigillata, Palestine, 100-1300 CE

Terra sigillata, or ‘sealed earth’, was a clay-like soil that was believed to have medicinal qualities. It was first used on the Greek island of Lemnos in around 500 BCE. It was usually prepared into cakes and then dried. The clay was then crushed into a powder and taken with liquids or made into a paste and smeared on the body. Terra sigillata was believed to fight against a number of diseases, including plague, and was highly sought after during epidemics. To prevent fake clay tablets being sold, terra sigillatae were stamped with a seal of authenticity.

Object number:

A635014

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Glossary:

Glossary: plague

An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

Glossary: epidemic

A sudden widespread occurance of an infection with high numbers of people affected.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: terra sigillata

A form of clay from the Greek islands of Lemnos or Samos. Until the 1700s, terra sigillata was used as a medicine and seen as a general cure for bodily impurities.

Glossary: seal - artefact

Refers to artefact bearing monograms, writing, numbers, symbols, or designs in intaglio that are used for making an impression in relief on some soft, tenacious substance such as clay or wax. They may be flat or cylindrical, the impression made by rolling the seal over the surface. The term also refers to the impressions that have been made in wax, clay, or another soft material by the impact of a seal or other hard engraved surface. Seals are generally used to authenticate documents or for decoration.