Brooklyn Museum

Signed, sealed, delivered. A papyrus containing a receipt for a loan of grain is one of several found among the remains of a fifth-century B.C.E. Jewish colony on the Egyptian island of Elephantine. Egypt’s dry climate preserved the papyrus with an intact bulla and cord still bound around it, as documents may have looked during Hezekiah’s reign some three centuries earlier. Because clay bullae were not baked like pottery, but were air-dried on the documents they sealed, they are extremely fragile. On their backs, most bullae bear the imprint of the papyrus grain and the cords they once held in place (see photograph).