ArticlesBullae

Bullae

Bullae, the sealings, usually of clay or bitumen, on which were impressed the marks of seals showing ownership or witness to whatever was attached to the sealing. Bullae or clay sealings were used in ancient Mesopotamia, but strictly speaking bullae came into general use after the end of cuneiform writing. The earliest bullae date from the Seleucid period of the history of Iran and they were in the shape of a “napkin ring” around a document. Seals were then impressed on the clay ring, usually with strings imbedded in it. This method of “sealing” documents apparently did not continue later, for under the Parthians we find a piece of clay placed over a knot that tied a folded parchment or papyrus as at Avroman.

Sasanian Bullae

Bullae (sig. bulla), are clay or bitumen impression of seals that are usually attached to documents or parcels (or the strings used to bound them) and show the identity of the author or witness of the document or the owner of the merchandise. The Middle Persian word for bulla, gil muhrag is known to us from an Iranian loanword in Aramaic Talmud (N. Frye). A number of clay bullae from the Sasanian era have been discovered at various Sasanian sites such as Takht-e Suleiman (D.Huff) and Qasr-e Abu Nasr (P. Harper). These have been of much importance in identifying these sites as Sasanian remains (D. Huff). Sasanian bullae have also been discovered from Transoxiana, bearing inscriptions in Sogdian (N. Frye). Bullae are important in Sasanian onomastics, assisting us in identifying personal names, government offices, and religious positions (R. Frye).