Online Conference: Seals and Society in the Medieval World, Byzantine Studies Virtual Colloqium, 29th October 2021, 9:00 – 16:15 EST

To mark the completion of the Dumbarton Oaks Online Catalogue of Byzantine Seals in 2021, Dumbarton Oaks is hosting a colloquium to explore the production, function, inscriptions, iconographic designs, and significance of seals. Building on the instant accessibility to the Byzantine seals collection and the research possibilities made available by the online catalogue, this colloquium invites scholars working on seals from Byzantine, European, and Middle Eastern medieval contexts to discuss and engage with each other’s material and to bring innovative, comparative perspectives to a specialized discipline entering a new phase.

The use and role of seals—documentary, diplomatic, literary, metaphorical, apotropaic, astrological, and medical—were contingent upon specific notions of materiality and representation. Seals were thus dynamic agents in cultural encounters. The materials, manufacture, and types of seals in the cultures within the colloquium’s scope, as well as their meanings and usages, were quite different from one another, and scholars have taken different approaches to their study and publication. Western seals tended to display more complex images with simple inscriptions, whereas in the Byzantine world texts of varying length and complexity often accompanied rich iconographic content. Equally different are the contexts in which seals from the different parts of the medieval world are found today and studied. Byzantine seals tend to be found detached from their original documents, in museum collections or archaeological contexts, whereas western seals are found in archival repositories, and their study is more likely linked to the fields of diplomatics, literacy, and documentary practices. 

Colloquiarchs: Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak (New York University), Eric McGeer (Dumbarton Oaks), and Jonathan Shea (Dumbarton Oaks)


  • John Cotsonis (His Grace Bishop Joachim of Amissos), Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
  • Christopher Mielke, Beverly Heritage Center
  • Elizabeth New, Prifysgol Aberystwyth University
  • Markus Späth, Justus Liebig University Giessen
  • Christos Stavrakos, University of Ioannina
  • Nicholas Vincent, University of East Anglia
  • Laura J. Whatley, Auburn University at Montgomery
  • Mustafa Yıldız, University of California, Berkley

A complete programme can be found here. To register, click here.


Published by charlottecook

Charlotte Cook graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European History from Washington & Lee University in 2019. In 2020 she received her Master’s degree in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, earning the classification of Merit. Her research explores questions of royal patronage, both by and in honor of rulers, in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. She has worked as a researcher and collections assistant at several museums and galleries, and plans to begin her PhD in the autumn of 2022.

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