The Personal Seal and a Bulla of ‘Kushi, son of Toba’’
by Robert Deutsch
The Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum houses one of the world's most important collections of West Semitic personal seals. The collection includes 140 different seals, impressions on jar handles, all recently published in a handsome catalog edited by Ronny Reich and signed by Nahman Avigad, Michael Heltzer, and Addr; Lemaire (AHL). Joseph Naveh contributed a foreword about the collection.
Fig 1: "(Belonging to) Kushi (son of) Toba'" Seal H-1956, Hecht Museum Collection
Of special interest here is seal no. 44 (Inventory No. H-1956), 'Belonging to Kushi, son of Toba' (WSS 222; Figs. 1-2). This is a Judean Hebrew personal seal, made of brown limestone and measuring 14.7x11.5x9.4mm. It has a scaraboid shape and is perforated lengthwise. The inscription lksy / tb is divided into two registers by a double line and surrounded by a framing line. A dot placed at the end of the inscription serves as a space-filler; The letters are well executed, and the seal can be dated to the second half of the 7th century BCE. This dating is based on the indicative letter kaf, which has a small middle vertical stroke that is shifted left to the center (Avigad 1990: 265). A unique feature of this letter is its upper-right stroke, which splits into two redundant slender extensions. Two additional small excessive lines are observed at the bottom of the letter kaf and on the top of the letter yod.
Fig 2: The impression of seal H-1956
The seal can be compared with the fragment of a bulla in the private collection of Mr. Chaim Kaufman of Antwerp and Tel Aviv (Deutsch 2003: Fig. 3).
The fragment is the upper part of a brown clay bulla measuring 15.5x8.2x7.5mm. On the back, an apparent wooden imprint is visible, along with a cord impression. On the upper edge, fingerprints are present. The lower part of the bulla is missing, lost in antiquity. Only the four letters lksy of the upper register are preserved. A close examination shows that the bulla was impressed in the 7th century BCE by the above-mentioned seal in the Hecht Museum Collection. All the opaque features of the letters on the Hecht seal are also present on the bulls. This comparison makes the match certain.
The seal was bought by Reuben Hecht in Jerusalem in 1984, and the fragmentary bulla was purchased by Chaim Kaufman, also in Jerusalem, in 2001. Such a match is extremely rare and has been observed only once before (Bulla WSS 616, first published in 1976; and seal WSS 330, first published in 1989).
Fig 3: The bulla of Kushi (son of [Toba']), obverse and reverse
The entire body of Hebrew personal seals published to date numbers approximately 500 specimens1. The number of published Hebrew bullae amounts to more than 650 specimens,2 while the number of Hebrew seal impressions on jar handles covers 50 different specimens (WSS 662-711). The total number of different Hebrew seals or seal impressions on bullae and handles is an impressive 1,200 approximately.