LMLK Concentric Circle Marks

Biblical Accounts
NonBiblical Accounts

x (cannot classify)


Personal Seals



"Some handles have in addition a stamp consisting of two concentric circles with a central dot. . . . but it seems useless to give statistics . . ."----David Diringer, 1953

In addition to LMLK stamps, at least 288 handles of Type 484 also have incised Circle marks:
138 handles with only Circle marks (3 singles; 135 pairs)
135 handles with Circle marks & LMLK stamps (3 singles [G2T, H2D, M2D]; 132 pairs)
003 handles with Circle marks & Personal stamps (all pairs)
012 handles with Circle marks that may or may not have LMLK stamps

LMLK inscription words when Circle marks are present:
12 ZYF
09 Generic
71 x (cannot classify by inscription word)

LMLK inscription styles when Circle marks are present:
10 Two-Winged Top-Registers
47 Two-Winged Divided
00 Two-Winged Undivided
74 Two-Winged (cannot classify by inscription style)
01 Four-Winged Cursory
01 Four-Winged Lapidarist
02 cannot classify by inscription or icon

LMLK stamp orientations when Circle marks are present:
00 1:00
00 2:00
20 3:00
12 4:00
02 5:00
01 6:00
01 7:00
03 8:00
24 9:00
03 10:00
00 11:00
04 12:00
66 unknown

Provenance for handles with Circle marks:
139 Jerusalem
41 Gibeon (el-Jib)
35 Ramat Rahel (Beth-Haccerem?)
19 Tell en-Nasbeh
17 Khirbet el-Burj
15 unknown
5 Gibeah (Tell el-Ful)
4 Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) (mistakenly reported by others as only 3)
>1 Gezer
1 Arad
1 Beth Shemesh (Ain Shems or Tell er-Rumeileh)
1 Beth Zur (Khirbet et-Tubeiqa)
1 Bethlehem
1 En Gedi (Tel Goren)
1 Jericho (Tell es-Sultan)
1 Khirbet es-Samrah
1 Moresheth-Gath (Tell ej-Judeideh or Tel Goded)
1 Timnah (Tel Batash)
Note:  They've also been reported from Tell Beit Mirsim & Azekah (Tell Zakariya) but without photos or descriptions of the handles, it's impossible to confirm whether they're Type 484 handles or one of the other pottery forms unrelated to the LMLK enterprise.

Outer diameters based on 76 specimens with a pair:
Maximum:  21mm (0.83")
Average:  16mm (0.64")
Minimum:  12mm (0.48")

Diameters based on 5 specimens with a single circle:
Maximum:  17mm (0.65")
Average:  13mm (0.53")
Minimum:  11mm (0.43")

Inner diameters based on 73 specimens with a pair:
Maximum:  14mm (0.55")
Average:  10mm (0.40")
Minimum:  07mm (0.28")

See the table at the bottom of this page for details of the handles excavated from Gibeon, & refer to the Theories page for interpretations of their meaning.  Since no jars with Circle marks have been restored yet, it's impossible to know whether they were ever made exclusively on jars without LMLK or Personal stamps, nor is it possible to know for certain whether all 4 handles of a jar were consistently marked.

Out of all these handles with Circle marks, only two have been excavated from a stratum identified with the late 8th-century Assyrian conquest (not sealed by it)--Shiloh's excavation at Jerusalem, where one other was found in the early 7th-century stratum, & 28 were from later strata.  One handle with Circles was found in the 7th-century stratum at Timnah, one at Khirbet es-Samrah, & one at Arad.  The handles found at Ramat Rahel, Gibeah, Beth Zur, & En Gedi are in strata disputed as either the late 8th or early 7th century.  The majority of handles with Circles at Gibeon were found in the upper third of the Great Pool.  It's important to remember that the earliest stratified stamps from x4x & x2U LMLK seal types preceded the late 8th-century Assyrian conquest, the earliest majority of Rosette stamps preceded the late 7th-century Babylonian conquest, & the Circle marks (along with the x2D & x2T LMLK stamps) reside sometime in between those 2 groups of stamps.

Click here to see the most common form of Circles incised between the LMLK stamp & the jar joint with the inner circle approximately midway between the central anchor dot & the outer circle; the magnified view shows a clear distinction between the colored external ware & the inner gray core, which indicates incision after firing.

Click here for a less common form with very close diameters.

Whoever incised the Circles was usually careful to avoid damaging the icon by overlapping it; click here to see a rare exception.

Two examples of tri-circle incisions were excavated at Gibeon but neither is on a LMLK-type handle:  one small cooking pot incised after firing (field # 341; stamp # 95; museum ID# 62-30-1120) & one giant pithos handle incised before firing (field # 828; P# 911; museum ID# 62-30-1292).  Neither of these has a central anchor dot.

Here is the only known example of 2 pairs of incisions (photo of PEF No. 140, 50/8178, Tag 225 reproduced by permission of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London, England):

This circle has been classified by some scholars as a single-circle incision (see Qedem 41 p.80 handle #CC15); however, no examples of it on handles with LMLK stamps have been published, & close examination of this specimen indicates that it was made from a unique form of stamp prior to firing instead of being incised afterward; the central anchor dot does not appear to have been drilled like the typical LMLK Circles, & the clay differs from Type 484 ware (photo of Nasbeh handle "Cistern 370, I, X58" taken by permission of the Bade Institute at the Pacific School of Religion):

Click here to see a handle in the Michael Welch collection (ID# 91) that does not have a LMLK impression, but it is probably from either a Type 483 or 484 jar; its circles are malformed & they may have been incised before firing while the clay was still wet (although similar specimens on provenanced LMLK handles are known but they're not quite as malformed as this one).  Another alternative is that the area where the circles now reside may have contained a weak Rosette stamp that had circles incised over it (either in antiquity or modernity).

Here is one of the 3 known specimens of Circle marks on the same handle as a Personal stamp (#687-22a; photo from "Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals" by Nahman Avigad [revised & completed by Benjamin Sass], distributed by The Israel Exploration Society):

Click here to see the only x4L handle with Circle marks; the only x4C specimen is shown below (from "Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old city of Jerusalem vol. 1" by Hillel Geva, Nahman Avigad, & Gabriel Barkay, published by The Israel Exploration Society):

Some metallic, compass-like (& possibly adjustable) instruments created these Circle marks since they are nearly perfect in diameter (unlike freehand incisions that appear on non-LMLK handles).  Bronze tools that are capable of incising these circles such as tweezers are frequently found at sites in & around Israel.  This photo shows some tweezers & a few other instruments from Nasbeh (courtesy of "Tell en-Nasbeh vol. 1" by Chester Charlton McCown & Joseph Carson Wampler) with openings that match the size ranges of LMLK Circle marks (the smaller one is 4mm, which would produce an 8mm-diameter circle; the larger one has a broken tip, but is 12mm & could've produced a circle approximately 20mm in diameter; the tweezers have a 7mm opening, so they could've produced a 14mm-diameter circle):

The following list of diameter pairs on 39 handles from Gibeon demonstrates how the Circles were not consistent in size (note--the measurements of field numbers 129, 411, 685, 711, 931, 983, 987, 1059 were obtained by firsthand examination; those of 318 & 499 were derived from photos scaled to their LMLK stamps; the rest are from "Hebrew Inscriptions & Stamps from Gibeon" by James B. Pritchard):
16x12mm, G2T (field # 75) 20x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 300) 20x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 300)
17x10mm, G2T (field # 711) 20x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 95) 19x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 1059)
17x11mm, G2T (field # 983) 19x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 1059) 18x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 987)
18x11mm, H2D (field # 318) 19x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 338) 19x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 338)
17x12mm, H2D (field # 356) 19x11mm, M2D (field # 499) 18x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 119)
only 17mm, H2D (field # 411) 19x10mm, x2x (field # 357) 18x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 120)
19x11mm, M2D (field # 499) 18x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 987) 17x12mm, H2D (field # 356)
18x11mm, M2D (field # 522) 18x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 119) 17x12mm, x2x (field # 129)
16x10mm, S2DW (field # 409) 18x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 120) 17x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 301)
13x09mm, S2DW (field # 415) 18x11mm, H2D (field # 318) 16x12mm, G2T (field # 75)
14x09mm, S2DW (field # 417) 18x11mm, M2D (field # 522) 16x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 931)
17x12mm, x2x (field # 129) 18x10mm, xxx (field # 354) 19x11mm, M2D (field # 499)
15x10mm, x2x (field # 269) 17x12mm, H2D (field # 356) 18x11mm, H2D (field # 318)
19x10mm, x2x (field # 357) 17x12mm, x2x (field # 129) 18x11mm, M2D (field # 522)
15x10mm, x2x (field # 398) 17x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 301) 17x11mm, G2T (field # 983)
15x10mm, H4L (field # 491) 17x11mm, G2T (field # 983) 17x11mm, Z2D (field # 685)
18x10mm, xxx (field # 354) 17x11mm, Z2D (field # 685) 17x11mm, (no LMLK; field # 78)
12x09mm, xxx (field # 418) 17x11mm, (no LMLK; field # 78) 16x11mm, (no LMLK; field # 270)
14x08mm, Z2D (field # 490) 17x10mm, G2T (field # 711) 19x10mm, x2x (field # 357)
15x09mm, Z2D (field # 500) 17x10mm, (no LMLK; field # 302) 18x10mm, xxx (field # 354)
17x11mm, Z2D (field # 685) only 17mm, H2D (field # 411) 17x10mm, G2T (field # 711)
17x11mm, (no LMLK; field # 78) 16x12mm, G2T (field # 75) 17x10mm, (no LMLK; field # 302)
20x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 95) 16x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 931) 16x10mm, S2DW (field # 409)
13x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 107) 16x11mm, (no LMLK; field # 270) 15x10mm, H4L (field # 491)
15x10mm, (no LMLK; field # 108) 16x10mm, S2DW (field # 409) 15x10mm, x2x (field # 269)
14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 112) 15x10mm, H4L (field # 491) 15x10mm, x2x (field # 398)
18x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 119) 15x10mm, x2x (field # 269) 15x10mm, (no LMLK; field # 108)
18x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 120) 15x10mm, x2x (field # 398) 20x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 95)
14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 215) 15x10mm, (no LMLK; field # 108) 15x09mm, Z2D (field # 500)
16x11mm, (no LMLK; field # 270) 15x09mm, Z2D (field # 500) 15x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 340)
20x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 300) 15x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 340) 14x09mm, S2DW (field # 417)
17x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 301) 14x09mm, S2DW (field # 417) 14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 112)
17x10mm, (no LMLK; field # 302) 14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 112) 14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 215)
19x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 338) 14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 215) 14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 339)
14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 339) 14x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 339) 13x09mm, S2DW (field # 415)
15x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 340) 14x08mm, Z2D (field # 490) 13x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 107)
16x12mm, (no LMLK; field # 931) 13x09mm, S2DW (field # 415) 12x09mm, xxx (field # 418)
18x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 987) 13x09mm, (no LMLK; field # 107) 14x08mm, Z2D (field # 490)
19x13mm, (no LMLK; field # 1059) 12x09mm, xxx (field # 418) only 17mm, H2D (field # 411)

". . . Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel."--Ezekiel 1:16
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This page was created on September 21, 2002, & last updated on December 25, 2011