University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology


Author: Leonard Gorelick

Ancient Seals and Modern Science

Using the Scanning Electron Microscope as an Aid in the Study of Ancient Seals

By: Leonard Gorelick and A. John Gwinnett

While ancient cylinder seals have been studied and reported in great detail, especially as to their iconography, there have been relatively few reports on their method of manufacture. There are none dealing with the microscopic examination of seals. Here we shall describe such a study using the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Cylinder seals (Fig. 1) […]


Ancient Lapidary

A Study Using Scanning Electron Microscopy and Functional Analysis

By: A. John Gwinnett and Leonard Gorelick

In the chronology of the development of ancient stone tools, drills and drilling were late additions to paleolithic technology. They had been preceded by other shaped liths and other uses such as scrapers and burins for hundreds of thousands of years. Subsequently, all ancient peoples learned the craft of drilling. Changes and improve­ments, however, took […]


Close Work Without Magnifying Lenses?

A Hypothetical Explanation for the Ability of Ancient Craftsmen to Effect Minute Detail

By: Leonard Gorelick and A. John Gwinnett

To many, a puzzling mystery of the ancient world is how minute artifacts or parts of them were made without magni­fication. Dramatic examples of this include small engraved Greek and Roman gems (Fig. la, b), coins with tiny engraved letters (Fig. 2a, b), the small intricate carving on certain ancient Near Eastern cylinder seals (Fig. […]


The Ancient Craft and Art of the Lapidary

By: Leonard Gorelick

This present issue of Expedition, like the previous one, is a special number devoted to the subject of the ancient lapidary. Together, they constitute the first time that the subject has been dealt with as a unified theme, from the work of Paleolithic Man, through that of the cunning craftsmen who made the first cylinder […]


Close Work Without Magnifying Lenses?

Discussion of suggestions from readers of Expedition

By: Leonard Gorelick and A. John Gwinnett

One of the purposes of our paper in the Winter 1981 issue of Expedition called “Close Work Without Magnifying Lenses?” was to present a hypothetical explanation for the ability of ancient craftsmen to effect minute detail before the invention of magnifying lenses. We presented evidence from the scientific disciplines of optics, opthamology, medical genetics, population […]


The Origin and Development of the Ancient Near Eastern Cylinder Seal

A Hypothetical Reconstruction

By: Leonard Gorelick and A. John Gwinnett

One purpose of this paper is to discuss and speculate on the origin and develop­ment of one of the most unusual and impor­tant lapidary artifacts in mankind’s history, the cylinder seals of the ancient Near East. They were part of the burst of creative energy and invention that accompanied urbanization in Mesopotamia around 3300 B.C. […]


Ancient Egyptian Stone-Drilling

An Experimental Perspective on a Scholarly Disagreement

By: Leonard Gorelick and A. John Gwinnett

More than most technical procedures in the ancient world, drilling of hard stone such as quartz and granite has evoked awe and puzzlement. Neither wall paintings, nor textual information, nor excavated material has provided complete answers as to how drilling was done. As a conse­quence, there has been scholarly contro­versy. One such disagreement occurred between […]


The Change from Stone Drills to Copper Drills in Mesopotamia

An Experimental Perspective

By: A. John Gwinnett and Leonard Gorelick

An important craft in ancient Mesopotamia was that of the lapidary—the maker of stone beads, amulets, figurines, small vessels and cylinder seals. One of the primary tools of the lapidary is the drill, used to shape, pierce, and decorate the surface of such artifacts. The earliest drills that have been recovered archaeologically are made of […]