Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Gaon's seal.

A real Gaon. Maybe not Rav Sherira, maybe not Rav Hai, but this is the real thing.

This seal belonged to the Gaon Nechemia of Pumbedisa.


  1. Hey, where'd you get this? Just for clarity's sake, it is not a seal but a bulla. That is, a piece of clay which was imprinted with a seal.

  2. where was this found? is it a recent find?

  3. >I think you mean "Nechemia Gaon"

    No, I meant the Gaon Nechemia. I am writing in English and I didn't mean or intend to write his title.

    Shai, it was in the Genizah Fragments newsletter. Just type nehemiah gaon seal into Google and it's the first result. Thanks for the correction. The mistake is theirs. ;-)


    This is not a recent find. It is from the Cairo Geniza, and IIUC was found with a letter or a cache of letters from the aforementioned gaon. I have no info, but I was able to see an excerpt in The Jewish Review in 1913, that says "The letters of Nehemiah Gaon (with his seal in perfect state of preservation) -- and that's all I've seen. The Genizah newsletter was just talking about the necessity of preserving the bulla. because it's so fragile

  4. "Bulla" is definitely more specific, but I don't think "seal" is wrong. A bulla can be (and is, I believe) considered a type of seal.

  5. It's nice to be defended, but I'd imagine that
    Shai is more correct as its used in archaeology today. In my further defense I'd add that bulla appears to be a relatively more recent term for the specific meaning that Shai gives. It still hasn't made it to the OED, and checking in books from 1800 to 1900 I see that it definitely does not have that precise, narrow meaning, and is used interchangeably with seal and other small pieces of metal. The article I quoted from 1913 probably also wasn't being imprecise. It seems that a specific term for a clay impression of a seal didn't really exist. I guess it's fair to ask why the Geniza Fragments newsletter calls it a seal!

  6. Bulla isn't the term for the impression in the clay. It's the term for the clay lump itself (when used in this way). I suspect that it is still correct to call this a bulla with the seal of R. N. Gaon (though I'm no archeologist)

  7. Pumbeditha is modern-day Fallujah, the site of a bloody battle between Iraqi insurgents and US forces. I wonder if any remnants of the Yeshiba there still remains.

  8. re Ha-historion

    if anything is there, it would be dated not later than circa 400 ce; the yeshivot were closed under Persian rule and were re-opened in Baghdad under the direction of the Geonim
    (see 'The Geonim of Bablyonia etc, Prof. R. Brody, page 31)

    the Geonim/Gaonate of both yeshivot (Sura and Pumbeditha) were in Baghdad

  9. what chriqui said -- it means the mouth of the delta, I think. I believe the name is a reference to where the Euphrates splits into a canal, or a translation of an older name meaning that (the 'fum' is more recognizable, obviously).



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