The considerable number of sealings (over 25,000) found from 1967 to 1973 by the Italian Archaeological Mission in the Archive Building of Seleucia was closely studied during the 1990s by a team of researchers from the University of Turin; the final result is the global classification of all the impressions preserved on the sealings, now available inside three recently published volumes (2004) that consider all of the material, subdividing it according to major iconographic classes (I: Official seals, portraits; II: Deities; III: Human figures, animals, objects and plants).
Although many historical and artistic aspects and issues related to the analysis of the archive’s functioning must be studied in greater depth, the complete publication of the catalogue of figured impressions has anyhow given scholars access to one of the largest and most important bodies of documents for understanding the history and culture of Seleucid Mesopotamia and of the entire Hellenistic/Roman world.
In fact, the figured impressions display a very rich assortment of subjects that in almost all cases belong to the Hellenistic repertoire (specifically, one should notice the presence of the main gods of the Greek pantheon: Apollo, Athena, Eros, Tyche, Artemis, Aphrodite, Heracles, Dionysus). But although the reference background is almost always Greek, the presence of motifs also belonging to the Babylonian (priests and fantastic animals) and Iranian traditions (e.g. the pigtailed figures or the hunting scenes) must also be noted; among the latter, several synchretistic images stand out (Artemis-Athena-Nanaia and Apollo-Nabu) which, although conceived in a purely Greek formal language, attest to the strong persistence of the old Mesopotamian culture in the Seleucid period.
The publication in recent years of Hellenistic seal impressions from Uruk and Seleucia on the Tigris has made an enormous amount of data accessible, mostly to the scholars that have studied and are still studying the seals.
The sealings found by the Italian Mission in Iraq in the largest known Hellenistic archive building, the city Archive building in Seleucia on the Tigris complement the sealings found during the American excavations of one of the city’s blocks, inside two private archives, known as “Archive A” and “Archive B” (McDowell, 1935).
Although these are not unitary bodies of work, the information provided even by only their superficial examination are invaluable, as the comparison of these large groups of seal impressions has yielded extremely interesting results: firstly, the presence of analogous seal impressions, on both tablets and sheets of documents (i.e. rolled or folded sheets of parchment or, in a smaller percentage, papyrus).
The comparative examination of the seal impressions from Uruk and Seleucia shows that the impressions of the same seal or of different seals with the same pattern are recurrent in the different archival contexts of the two cities, both in the Archive building in Seleucia and in the templar archives of Uruk, and on different media; moreover, interesting parallels also exist between the archives in the same city centre, such as in Seleucia.