Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Introduction to Ancient Jewelry

These disk-shaped rock crystal beads are styled in four single chains. The necklace clasps at the base of the neck and shows an almost regular scaling on the décolleté. Men and women have adorned themselves with jewelry from the earliest times of nomadic life, when wild animals were first domesticated and land cultivated. These jeweled artifacts illuminate ancient culture and customs, enabling us to better understand the formation of society.
Some jeweled objects were worn as status symbols, while others were endowed with magic to ward off evil. In Ur, one of the earliest known civilizations, double spiral pendants found in a child's grave are believed by scholars to have been left by pregnant women to ward off evil. Lapis lazuli carved into frog-shaped amulets was also buried there to protect the mother's fertility. At the royal grave of Queen Pu-Abi in Ur, archeologists discovered an early example of a status symbol: her gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian comb, which consisted of seven gold rosettes, whereas her handmaiden's comb, also found in Ur, had only four or five.
According to Jewish. Christian and Muslim beliefs, the cradle of civilization was the Garden of Eden, recognized as the birthplace of their societies. The Jewish calendar marks the number of years since the Garden of Eden flourished. Although scholars of all faiths may debate the precise date and exact location of this paradise, most agree that the birth of all human civilization was located in Mesopotamia, at the cusp of that fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where the first cities and crafts developed long before the great civilizations of Egypt and Greece.
Masterpieces of Ancient jewelry Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization will provide a rich succession of masterpieces from the Ancient Near East, where civilization was born. These jeweled objects represent important historic collections from the world's great institutions: the Louvre in Paris, the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin the Israel Museum in Jerusalem the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Because unauthorized excavations have been a thorny issue among historians, museums, and archaeologists, featured objects from private collections have been carefully vetted.
Gold Finger Ring Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry are organized chronologically, beginning with Mesopotamia, and followed by the Levant, Persia, Byzantium and Islam. To appreciate the role of jewelry, we must place it in the context of the culture during these periods. Maps, diagrams, and descriptions will delineate the relationships between and among emerging societies. Six thousand years ago. the inhabitants of the Near East were basically nomads whose national borders were loosely defined. Adding to the complexity are the shifting sands of hundreds of years of political and regional strife. But through the jewelry and the contributions of renowned archeologists, Masterpieces of Ancient jewelry will transport the reader to a time of the world's first kings, fortunes, cities, and wars.
Masterpieces also include interviews with renowned archeologists: Dr. Donny George Youkhanna. Who for many years was the Director of the National Museum of Iraq: Mrs. Osnat Misch- Brandi? Curator of Chalcolithic and Canaanite Periods at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem: Dr. Stefano Carboni. Curator of the Department of Islamic Art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: Dr. Barbara Deppert- Lippitz, an expert in ancient jewelry;
Dr. John Michael Padgett, Curator of Ancient Art at Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey; Dr. Karen Wilson, Kish Project Manager at the Field Museum in Chicago: Dr. Renee Dreyfus, Curator of Ancient Art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and Dr Aubrey Baadsgaard, of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Anthropology. These interviews will shed light on the enduring legacy of the Ancient Near East.
Pendant with Goats and BirdsLet us begin by defining a "jeweled master-piece," which we generally describe today as a precious metal set with gems such as diamonds However because such precious elements were unavailable the earliest ornaments from Mesopotamia were made from semiprecious stones such as carnelian rock crystal and lapis lazuli: organic materials such as amber bitumen and shells volcanic glass such as obsidian (black crystal): and gold Today's gold jewelry is 14. 18 or 22 karats, but in ancient times there were no, alloys, so the gold used‘s was as close as possible to pure gold or 24 karat
The featured masterpieces are a reflection of emerging civilization when Mesopotamia produced the first literature, music, astronomy and medicine. The invention of the wheel the measurement of time and even t he first skyscraper (or ziggurat), were also products of Mesopotamia
The story of Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry begins with the discovery of the rock crystal necklaces at Uruk (or Tall al Warka), a city on the Euphrates between 4000 and 3000 B.C.E. (Scholars have adopted B.C.E.,..liefore the Common Era" and CI-Common Era" in lieu of B.C. and A.D.). It was in Uruk that archaeologists unearthed the first evidence of writing. Thou-sands of day tablets from around 3400 B.C.E. have been discovered, indicating that the Mesopotamia invented written communication. The rock crystal bead necklace from Uruk on the while carved some six thousand years ago is a masterpiece not because of its material, but because of the symmetry and craftsmanship of the necklace
Uruk was the first and largest settlement in southern Mesopotamia. The invention of the wheel and the des development of metal to take place there in the book of Genesis. Uruk is known as Ereck home of King Gilgamesh who, according to legend, created the modern city of Uruk In the mythical poem The Epic of Gilgamesh" he begins his life as a narcissistic king who goes on a great adventure and finds. then loses, the key to immortality. Tablets portraying "The Epic of Gilgamesh" were excavated at Nineveh. picturing Gilgamesh wearing bracelets and amulets, demonstrating that both men and women wore jewelry. The story of Gilgamesh ends with his showing the ferryman his city of Uruk and its great city walls.
Silver Finger Ring Also unearthed in Uruk were decorative cylindrical seals, crafted for use as identification tags or to tell a story. The seals are small (approximately two to six centimeters in length) and carved in reverse to leave a positive image then rolled on clay some seals were nude in shell. 'twig or stone and they were often worn around the neck, much like today's "I De necklaces. Later. Mesopotamian seals contained pictures of daily life or mythological subjects. Dr Beate Salje, thrector of the vorderasiastisches Museum In Berlin and an expert on the mythical cylindrical seals, relates that one of the earliest scats contained a recipe for making beer!
According to the book of Genesis, Ur. In southern Mesopotamia is the birthplace of Abraham and his birth (around t800 B.C.E.) is cited by some scholars as the origin of Judaism. Eventually. Ur surpassed Uruk in development. Establishing itself as a more prominent crucible of civilization. In the history of decorative an; and jewelry Ur is best known from the excavations of archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley. In 1922, on behalf of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum, he university the graves of the kings and queens who ruled during the mid third millennium B.C.E. Woolley found more than fifteen hundred pieces of extraordinary gold jewelry, the remains of wheeled vehicle, and musical instruments en sold lapis lazuli and wood Gold objects in the tombs were created using technique still practiced today, such as granulation, filigree, engraving, and fusion welding. Whatever the process, the results were impressive: combs for the hair, lapis lazuli dog collars, gold necklace, and carnelian amulets for good luck. These objects may not rank as luxurious today, but they were quite precious in ancient times.   
Ur and the other city states in southern Mesopotamia shared the same language and gods, but these differed from the language and culture of the people of northern Mesopotamia the Akkadians By the middle of the second millennium B.C.E, the Akkadians  king Sargon, conqured the south and united the entire region. During this period, city-states rose and fell regularly. Rebellions and revolts were commonplace sargon’s kingdom, Agade, in ancient Iraq, has never been discovered.
Ancient Jewelry NecklaceIt was not until the era of Hammurabi the sixth king of the Babylonian Dynasty, that, Through war and conquest, the seat of power in Mesopotamia changed to Babylonian. It became the most important city in the Ancient Near East, home to Mesopotamia largest skyscraper, and, most importantly, the origin of laws for the average citizen, Known an the “Code of Hammurabi.” The eight foot monumental tablet on which the laws were written now resides in the louver. Today, people say,” an eye for an eye …a tooth for a tooth,” without  realizing  they are  quationg Hammurabi.
After Hammurabi died, there was a succession of revolts in the south. The warrior Assyrians made conquests across the Middle East, extending the domain of the Assyrian Empire, the first society to have an established army. Most of what we know of them comes from stone reliefs, not jewelry. However, jewelry that has been excavated from their graves shows a continuing fascination with carnelian and lapis lazuli. Often carnelian stones were strung with small seed pearls, or adorned with small silver earrings. From the excavations at Nimrud, also known as Kalakh, a stone Assyrian winged deity wearing a rosette bracelet as well as necklaces and a hanging earring surfaced. Though it is more common to see Assyrian deities wearing jewelry, these reliefs demonstrate that some soldiers did as well.
During the same period, beginning in the third millennium B.C.E., society was developing in the neighboring Levant, which consists of Israel. Lebanon, and Syria. Jewelry and the decorative arts of the Levant were an amalgam of influences from northern Mesopotamia. During this time, semiprecious materials and metals were employed, such as carnelian, turquoise, and copper. Nearly one thousand years later trade developed between the Levant and Egypt, inspiring Egyptian styles and insignia in the Levant. Scarab rings became commonplace, and later scarabs were used as seals. Faience, an Egyptian process to make jewelry look like precious stones, was brought to the Levant. Subsequently granulation, a jewelry technique where grains of gold arc heated and attached to a gold background, was also adopted there. Examples of objects incorporating these techniques were discovered in the royal tombs at Ur as well as in excavations in the land of Canaan in the Levant.
It was the Phoenicians. the sea traders of the Levant, who exerted the greatest influence upon jewelry design. These great sailors from Canaan soon spread Mesopotamian culture all over the region. From the ninth century the Phoenicians, best known today for creating the modern alphabet, were also known as the "Purple People" since they extracted purple dye from snails located in Tyre (in Lebanon). They learned the secret of making pure glass and tinting it with purple. their favorite color. With the addition of oxides, hues resembling pearl colors were produced. Glass manufacturing was soon used to imitate colored stones, and colored mosaic glass vessels spread throughout the Mediterranean. Another Phoenician art form was the engraving of such gems as carnelian, rock crystal, lapis lazuli, sardonyx, and sapphires.
Ancient JewelryThe Phoenicians established colonies in North Africa, Cyprus, Italy, and Spain. Many of these regions were rich in resources such as gold, silver, and copper. Phoenician and colonial craftsmen created gold jewelry and unique decorative objects using the popular techniques of granulation and filigree, often in themes pertaining to nature and religion. Animal motifs, rather than human forms, were more common.
Egyptian influence is evident in Phoenician jewelry design, from pendants modeled after the Egyptian Eye of Horns (to ward off evil and protect the wearer) to rings resembling designs of older Egyptian stone-carved finger rings. A golden Tree of Life pendant, pictured on the opposite page, incorporates natural and religious themes using birds and goats. It represents the tree of life in the Garden of Eden from Genesis, and symbolizes immortality. Phoenician craftsmanship is evident in the fine detailing.
By mixing Egyptian and Assyrian styles, an important characteristic of their art, Phoenician artisans elevated jewelry to a new artistic level in the Levant. According to The History of Art Phoenicia and us Dependencies, written in 1885 by Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, geometrical and vegetable forms prevail in Phoenician work. Jewelry is created to enhance the man or woman wearing it and make him or her more beautiful. Jewelry should be worn in simple combinations of straight and curved lines.
Outside the Levant Phoenician settlements had a major impact on many other cultures, especially in Greece. The Ancient Greeks incorporated Phoenician and Syrian designs into their art and jewelry. Immigrant goldsmiths from Phoenicia settled in Greece and revealed their secrets, adapting what was formerly an Egyptian style to make it more Greek. Likewise the Etruscans used Phoenician motifs in their jewelry, but they employed extensive use of granulation to make the jewelry more uniquely their own.
Historians refer to this cross-cultural time as the "Orientalizing" period.
The eighth and ninth centuries B.C.E. are sometimes called the "Ivory Age of the Levant," when carving of ivory was one of the main industries of workshops in the prosperous cities of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine. After Assyria launched a successful campaign against the Phoenicians. Phoenician craftsmen were forced to produce refined ivories that decorated the palaces at Nimrud, the Assyrian capital.
In 550 the Ancient Near East, including the Levant, was united as the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. It became the largest empire the world had known stretching all the way from Spain to China, an area physically as large as the United States. Persian rule consisted of tree major dynasties: Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian. The Persians accepted the diversity of their people and had little wish to impose their identity on others. They were also the first to create an international trading network, known as the Silk Road; they established artistic interchange between the nobles, priests, and landed gentry: and they introduced the concept of monotheism (Zoroastrianism), though they tolerated different religions. In particular, Cyrus II accepted the Jews and helped more than forty thousand people leave Babylonia and return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple.
Ancient BraceletAnimals are a popular theme in the jewelry and decorative arts of the Achaemenid Dynasty. Although most jewelry did not survive, an example of such an animal motif can be found in the lion's head plaques that were sewn onto a person's clothing.
In 330 B.c. k Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military leaders in history, conquered Persia and proclaimed himself king, marking the end of the Achaemenid Dynasty It was not until 247 that the next major Persian dynasty, the Parthians, expelled Alexander's successors. The Parthians were highly militaristic, excellent horsemen who began to actively trade with the East via their expansion of the Silk Route to China. The court and its rituals played an important role during this period. 

Ceremonial drinking horns, called rhytons, were introduced, and jewelry reflected the citizens' desire to display their new wealth. Jewelry during this time was an amalgam of Greek and Near Eastern design. Most jewelry was made of gold and used the iconography of Dionysus the Greek god of wine, on everything from earrings to vessels. The Parthian regime lasted nearly five hundred years and was instrumental in expanding the Silk Road linking Persia with China.
In 224 C.E. Ardashir I crowned himself "King of Kings" of the Persians after conquering the Parthians and establishing the Sassanian Dynasty During this time, Persia achieved the height of its economic and artistic power. Its kings were patrons of music, literature, philosophy, and all the arts. In the Sassanian period, jewelry and the decorative arts reached a new level. Sassanian jewelry glorified the royals their court. Nationalism soared and Zoroastrianism became the official religion. The king adorned himself with necklaces and earrings, as did royal women and dancers of the court. Scenes of the royal courts, dances, banquets, and hunts appeared on decorative bowls, vessels, and plates.
During this same time period, in 306 C.E Persia's nemesis, Constantine the Great, became the emperor of Rome and made Christianity the official religion of his realm. In 330 he made Constantinople (which, until then, had been called Byzantium) the official second capital of his Roman empire. This era, known as the early Byzantine period, was marked by fighting between the Persians and the early Christians.
Earring Ancient JewelryThe crosscurrents of the two societies had a marked effect on jewelry and the decorative arts, making Byzantine jewelry distinctive. For example, since birds were a popular motif in the early dynasties of Persia, Byzantine nobles and the wealthy aristocracy kept peacocks on their estates to suggest a setting reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. Jewelry with the peacock motif was favored, as its growing a new tail each spring symbolizes renewal.
 In the Byzantine period seed pearls were often attached to earrings or sewn onto clothing, continuing a tradition originating in 4000 B.C.E. Other materials, such as rock crystal, carnelian, amethyst, and lapis lazuli, continued to be used. Through the early Byzantine era, the law of the land, the Code of Justinian, contained laws that restricted the use of gold, pearls, and emeralds for those who were not members of the royal family or part of the royal court. Gold tableware, chamber pots, and burial offerings were prohibited to contain them: only gold coins, fillings, and women's rings were allowed. Size, artistic quality, and material of the jewelry always reflected the social rank of the owner. During this same period, when Christian motifs dominated jewelry and decorative objects, Jewish iconography was rare.
Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry will conclude with the advent of Islam and its impact on jewelry and the decorative arts. In 622 C.E the prophet Muhammad left his birth city of Mecca to found the first Islamic state in Medina. After his death in 632 C.E. Muhammad's followers soon conquered Iran. Mesopotamia, the Levant, Egypt and North Africa followed by Spain, Central Asia, and India. They continued to preach the concept of one god, or Allah, establishing not just a religion but a change in culture as well. Unlike previous periods, Islamic art did not evolve slowly; rather, art was created specifically for Muslims. The effect upon jewelry was significant.
The Qur'an, or Holy Book, in which Muhammad inscribed his illuminations reveals nothing about the aesthetic of jewelry, paintings, and sculpture. The origins of much Islamic jewelry can be traced to Greek and Roman designs that are combined with granulation and filigree work to make the objects uniquely Islamic.
 Both Islamic men and women wore jewelry during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Such public adornment of women was, in fact, common. While the chador robe is often associated with strict women's dress today, a .simple veil was more prevalent in ancient times, as was the case with early Christian women. Islamic jewelry and decorative objects involved an emphasis on calligraphy, geometric designs, and animal representation. Simple forms like the circle, square, triangle, and four-sided polygon were the focus of design for many jewelry pieces. Such geometric patterns make Islamic jewelry, architecture, and carpets distinctive. Filigree was raised to its highest level but never added weight to the jewelry. Every attention was paid to details.
Beautiful Ancient Jewelry Few pieces of Islamic jewelry have been found that date prior to the eleventh century C.E; according to Islamic tradition, objects were not buried with the dead, so little or no jewelry has survived. Most earlier objects were probably classified as Roman, Byzantine, or Sassanian. However, the excavations at Nihavand in western Persia and Nishapur in Iran do provide examples. In this respect, the Masterpieces exhibition will bridge the millennia to illuminate how ancient arts and traditions have influenced modern times.
Masterpieces of Ancient jewelry will be on display at The Forbes Galleries, 62 Fifth Avenue, New York, from September through December 2009.
It will then travel to the Field Museum, 1400 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, where it will reside from February through June 2009.
This is the National jewelry Institute's third Masterpieces exhibition. The first exhibition, Masterpieces of American jewelry, opened in New York and then traveled to London, Paris, and Pittsburgh. The second, Masterpieces of French jewelry, traveled from New York to San Francisco. Our mission is to support the preservation and creation of fine jewelry. We are hopeful that those studying jewelry and the decorative arts will be able to expand their horizons with these books and exhibitions.
Writer - Judith Price
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