This article is a pilot study investigating sealing and seals on the published tablets in the British Museum that come from Sippar and are dated to the reign of Hammurabi. The limitations of such a sample are self-evident: the present published corpus consists of carefully selected or randomly copied or transliterated texts, which are only a minute portion of the whole of Hammurabi period texts, and are without archival context (see n. 4). While this approach cannot hope to give a complete picture of the role of seals in the Sippar of Hammurabi, it has raised points of interest in scribal and sealing practice and may generate less conventional methods in the study of Old Babylonian sealing.
The c. 177 texts referred to in this article (see n. 2) range through most of Hammurabi's reign (1792–1750 BC) and span the majority of text types: lawsuits, inheritances, bequests, nursing and adoption contracts, marriages, sales, property exchanges, rentals, leases, loans, receipts and miscellania (e.g. memoranda, hire of person, gift of millstone). By far the most common of these texts are field leases. For the sake of convenience the tablets discussed below will be referred to as long-term (e.g. sales, adoptions, estate settlements) or short-term (e.g. leases, receipts). The relevance of this to sealing will become apparent.