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I was recently in Prague on the way back from a visit to another city, and in their National Gallery I noticed this:

A cord-and-wax seal on a door in the National Gallery, Prague.  Photo by Sean Manning, August 2016.

A cord-and-wax seal on a door in the National Gallery, Prague. Photo by Sean Manning, August 2016.

Art galleries in big old buildings often need to keep people from going un-noticed into areas which are not on public display, without blocking the connection completely. I saw the same solution at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg:

A cord-and-wax seal in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.  Photo by Sean Manning, September 2015.

A cord-and-wax seal in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Photo by Sean Manning, September 2015.

But I knew it of old, because when I was growing up I had a book on Tutankhamun’s tomb which showed the cord-and-wax seal to the door of the shrine around his sarcophagus. The mourners who sealed Tut’s tomb added a special knot in the cord which thieves might find difficult to forge, but he was Pharaoh after all.

Photo by Harry Burton (1922) courtesy of the National Geographic Society and rarehistoricalphotos.com

Now, some people would find this funny, and make jokes along the lines of the one about the Russian space pen. But given the basic restraints of an old building with old doors which can’t be mucked about with too much full of jet-lagged tourists and elderly scholars bumping around to get just the right angle for their photo, I am not sure that any high-tech solution would do better. Seals and cords don’t stop anyone from opening the door that they guard, but they make it difficult for them to do it without leaving a trace. And they do that just as effectively today as in the New Kingdom. Someone determined could arrange for the right wax, cord, and stamps and a few confederates to provide cover while they slip in and out and apply a forged seal, but someone determined can learn to pick most locks or fool most electronic security systems too.