A group of archaeologists affiliated with the Asia Minor Research Centre has recently unearthed more than 2,000 seal impressions in the ancient city of Doliche.
Doliche, established as a Hellenistic colony in the 2nd century BC, is situated in the present-day province of Gaziantep, Turkey. During antiquity, it resided in the ancient region of Cyrrhestica, incorporated into the Roman Empire in AD 72.
Previous excavations in Doliche have revealed remnants of a Mithraic temple, rock-cut graves, and a stele depicting a previously unknown Iron Age deity.
In a recent study by the Asia Minor Research Centre, it was discovered that the seal impressions, used to seal documents from the city municipal archive, numbered over 2,000. These impressions, ranging from 5 millimetres to 2 centimetres, are stamped clay lumps.
Professor Michael Blömer from the University of Münster noted, "The images on the official city seals have a direct urban connection, typically featuring their most significant deities such as Jupiter Dolichenus, the city's primary god."
Between the mid-second and mid-third century AD, the worship of Jupiter Dolichenus gained popularity within the Roman military. Various religious structures dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus identify him as the "deity of the Commagenians."
The smaller, private seals display a diverse array of images and symbols, revealing the cultural impact of religion on the inhabitants of Doliche. Professor Blömer commented, "The gods on the seals provide insights into people's religious environment. Mythical figures or rare private portraits indicate a strong Greco-Roman influence." The well-preserved seal impressions and their motifs also offer insights into ancient administrative practices.
These seals were discovered in the lower foundations of an archive building constructed from solid limestone blocks, measuring 8 by 25 meters. This multi-story structure contained a sequence of rooms. While archives designated for contract storage existed in each Roman city, only a handful of such structures from the Roman Empire have been identified so far.
The researchers posit that the archive documents themselves were likely destroyed in a significant fire, possibly around AD 253 when the Persian king Šāpūr I ravaged numerous cities in the Roman province of Syria.