Ancient seals contained carved images and sometimes words that would leave a mirror impression when stamped onto a soft surface, usually wet clay. The seals were used to “sign” documents with the unique seal of an individual such as the seller. They can be compared to a notarized signature today. The impression gave visual proof of the genuineness of the object.
Papyrus documents were often rolled and folded, after which string was tied around them, and seal impressions stamped at various points on the string. The impressions could also be used to prove no one had tried to open the document since it had left the hand of those who had made a will, contract, financial agreement, decree, or receipt for goods.
Stamped onto a person’s possessions, a seal impression could identify ownership of the object. They were also used in business to protect closed containers from tampering or theft or to seal storerooms full of grain to show if the room had been broken into or not.