David Harris, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, lent by the Israel Department of Antiquities

Lyre seal: A delicate twelve-stringed lyre decorates this seventh-century B.C. jasper seal from Jerusalem. This lyre is as close to true Israelite art as we find in this exhibit; the ancient Israelites excelled in matters of the spirit, not in the creation of art.

Seals were used in antiquity to stamp bullae, lumps of clay affixed to letters to assure that they would not be opened during transmission. The inscriptions on these seals, usually indicating ownership, were carved in mirror image and appeared in correct orientation when pressed into the soft clay bullae. This Hebrew inscription reads “Belonging to Ma’adanah, the King’s daughter.”