Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Out of the closet. When Paris collector Paul Altman died several years ago, the Israel Museum was invited to select ten seals, including the five pictured in this article, from his private collection of 68 seals. The current location of the other 58 seals is unknown. The variety of inscriptions and images on the Altman seals now in the Israel Museum provide just a hint of the treasures that remain in private hands.

None of these seals has a known provenance. They are dated by the shapes and forms of the letters, which vary over time.

The script on this jasper seal identifies it as Ammonite. This seal, which depicts a nude woman holding her breasts, apparently belonged to a royal official in Ammon: The inscription reads “Belonging to Menahem son of Samak servant of the king.” The unusual design has led some to question its authenticity.