Seal matrix of Snarrus the toll collector

Type: Seals, Sculptures
Date: Twelfth century
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): England
Medium: Ivory
Dimensions: 3.8 × 0.7 cm
Description: A man in twelfth-century York used this walrus-ivory matrix to stamp his personal, official seals. The Latin inscription around the circumference says "+ Sig+ . Snarri . Theolenarii," Seal (Lat. sigillum) of Snarrus the Toll Collector. Snarrus is shown holding a purse into which coins are falling—in other words, in the act of collecting tolls, which were paid by people entering the city to trade. Snarrus was either assigned to one of the Bars (gates) of York, or he moved among the city's markets collecting these fees. Seals (and seal matrices) of such non-elite medieval individuals are very rare.

The walrus ivory was likely imported from Greenland. The reverse of the matrix is undecorated but highly polished, which suggests that it was worn, suspended from the loop at the top, for a long time. Snarrus's name is a version of the Scandinavian "Snorri" or "Esnarri," which means "shrewd." The name or nickname was introduced to England when the Vikings expanded westward (York itself was a Viking town, Jorvik, from 866 until the Norman conquest in 1068). A twelfth-century date is deduced from the clothing style.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 7, 8
Image Credits: Linda Safran

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Seal matrix of Snarrus, the toll collector, Yorkshire Museum (1973.5.29) Detail, seal matrix of Snarrus, the toll collector, Yorkshire Museum (1973.5.29)