Conference: From cylinder seals to Lippert's dactyliotheca

Conference posterConference poster
Day 1, lecture 1: Cassandra on seal stones.Day 1, lecture 1: Cassandra on seal stones.
Some hitherto unpublished cameos from the Leiden collection.Some hitherto unpublished cameos from the Leiden collection.
Portrait of emperor Elagabalus.Portrait of emperor Elagabalus.
From chalcedony to glass: gem identification.From chalcedony to glass: gem identification.
Visit to the exhibition 'Splendour & precision'.Visit to the exhibition 'Splendour & precision'.
Lecture on cylinder seals.Lecture on cylinder seals.
Heliotrope Kassite cylinder seal.Heliotrope Kassite cylinder seal.
Audience with questions.Audience with questions.
Lecture on Sassanid seal stones.Lecture on Sassanid seal stones.
Sassanid seal stone with monogram.Sassanid seal stone with monogram.
Lecture on Roman magical gems.Lecture on Roman magical gems.
Post-Classical cameo portraying Venus Marina.Post-Classical cameo portraying Venus Marina.
Post-classical cameo in pendant setting.Post-classical cameo in pendant setting.
Expert workshop. Identifying the unidentified.Expert workshop. Identifying the unidentified.
Conference participants.Conference participants.


On 3-4 November the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities organized the conference From cylinder seals to Lippert's dactyliotheca. International experts discussed engraved gems, from antiquity to the present day with special attention for the people associated with these objects: the engravers, users and re-users. The aim was to re-examine and evaluate current knowledge, define research goals for the future, and revive interest in the rich and fascinating collection of engraved gems in the National Museum of Antiquities. The keynote lecture on November 2nd was by Revd. Prof. Martin Henig (University of Oxford) on 'Roman gems in old collections and modern archaeology’. Prof. Henig spoke about the importance of combining strengths in the study of gems from archeological sites and from old collections.

More than 6,000 engraved gems in Leiden

Small portable engraved gems are rich in iconographic and historical resonance. Gems with signatures, ring settings and also catalogues written by 18th-century collectors all provide valuable information on the engravers, as well as those people who used and re-used the gems. In 2013 the collection of more than 4.000 engraved gems from the former Money Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet was transferred to the National Museum of Antiquities, bringing the museum’s collection of engraved gems to more than 6,000 objects.

Renewed attention

Two centuries after the founding of the Royal Coin Cabinet, scholarly interest in researching the entire collection of engraved gems at the National Museum of Antiquities has been revived. The collection includes cylinder seals from the ancient Near East, Greek and Roman ring stones and jewellery, Sassanid seal-stones, cameos dating from the 15th right up to the 20th century and a number of 18th-century dactyliothecas. Recently, research on this collection has been greatly facilitated by registration of the entire collection, making it available online, and presenting it in the current exhibition Splendour & Precision. Exquisite engraved gems. The conference added new gemmological, iconographical and historiographical information to the biography of these gems. 


The contributions to the conference and several smaller non-presented contributions will be included in a publication that is to appear in 2017.



download file 


download file