Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Egyptian Jewelry Ornaments

Painted limestone statue of Nofret wearing a cloisonné silver circlet and a Broad Collar of headstone beads. IIIrd lVth Dynasty Cairo Museum ORNAMENTS OF THE HEAD AND TORSO

The jewel worn on the head by both men and women, royalty and commoners, was the circlet, known from the captions to the coffin pictures of the Middle Kingdom as the 'boatman's circlet'. In its most rudimentary form this appears to have been a chaplet, woven of water-weed plucked from the river verges, that was placed on the brow to confine the hair. The strong north wind that so often prevails over the waterway in the Nile Valley is very apt to blow the boatman's hair into his eyes, and the meaning of the phrase is obvious. In time this vegetable prototype was translated into a more permanent metal version and the gold wire circlet of the House Mistress Seneb-tisi from is a Twelfth Dynasty simplified version of such a chaplet. The almost contemporary crown of the Princess Khnumet from Dahshur is a much more sophisticated example, in which the strands of weed have been intertwined with flowers and buds made of blue, red and green stones in gold settings.

A further development from this circlet was the diadem, originally a band of linen tied around the brow with a bow at the back, the loose ends falling on the neck. Lotus flowers and buds could be tucked mw this band, especially on festal occasions. In the reliefs of the Old Kingdom there frequently appears a scene of boatmen wearing such flower-bedecked fillets and engaging in real or sham fights in their papyrus skiffs. Probably these contests have a religious significance and the circlets themselves have a primary or incidental meaning, like the Crown of Justification of Hellenistic times. Certainly, the boatmen's circlet became a royal crown when mounted with a uraeus or vulture, and was worn by both kings and queens.

Roundel from furniture of Queen Hetep-her-es
As a costume adjunct worn by commoners, the natural flowers were soon replaced by stylized versions in beads; while the band, its knot, and the loose ends falling as streamers, also lent themselves to interpretation as bead-work held together by spacers. Such fillets appear to be worn by the daughters of Djehuti-hopte in a painted relief from his tomb dating to the Middle Kingdom. That the flower-bedecked chaplet had already been the inspiration for a metalwork version by at least the early Old Kingdom is shown in the painted statue of Nofret at Cairo. Here on a white band are set red and green rosettes, each with eight radiating lines from a central boss flanked by the calyx of a flower or perhaps the spathe of a flowering rush with two buds emerging. 

This is evidently a painted representation of an original in silver, like some of the surviving fillets, with cloisonné appliqués inlaid with green, red and blue stones. A similar design appears in the tomb of the later queen Mer-es-ankh III, where the spathes emerge vertically from the diadem : the bow-tie at the back has also been transformed into a pair of papyrus umbels, while the knot has become a circular boss set between them, as almost invariably was the pattern for all practical jewels.

Girl with fish pendant
A more stylized version of such a design appears in the second crown of the Princess Khnumet, where the diadem has become a continuous linkage of the appliqués seen on the fillet of Nofret with the upright spathe-elements in the example worn by Mer-es-ankh III. The rosettes in all examples are probably greatly simplified versions of a roundel, consisting of a central boss with four so-called lily flowers radiating to the four points and a bud set between. A princess of the Fourth Dynasty had a gold fillet set with one such roundel, alternating with two papyrus-umbel bow-knots having a pair of ibises resting on them. Similar motifs appear on gilded copper head-bands at Boston and Leipzig.

The crown of the Princess Sit-Hathor-Yunet from Lahun shows a restrained interpretation of the same theme. The fillet is a perfectly plain gold band to which fifteen inlaid roundels have been riveted. The double papyrus-umbel bow-knot at the rear has become a single umbel, but made in the round as a support for a flickering sheet-gold plume. The tapes at the rear have also become a pair of sheet-gold streamers hinged to one of the roundels, and are supplemented by a pair of such streamers hanging from each side. The addition of an inlaid uraeus worked a jour exalts this essentially plebeian headgear into a royal crown.

Broad Collar Other examples of the circlet designed as a crown have survived from subsequent periods. The tomb of the three queens of Tuthmosis III has yielded to date one such specimen in which the uraeus or vulture of heiress consorts has been replaced by the gazelle-head insignia of secondary queens. The circlet, which was the only crown placed over the head of Tut-ankh-amun within his coffin, has carried stylization a stage further with the narrow band bearing roundels reduced to mere carnelian bosses, and uraei attached to the side-streamers. 

The last variation on this design of jewel to have survived is the chaplet belonging to an infant daughter of Queen Twosre in which the fillet has been attenuated to a narrow ribbon carrying six large composite flowers in purple gold instead of simple roundels. From this it is but a short step to the crown of roses so characteristic of the Isis cult in Roman times.

In the New Kingdom the boatman's circlet fell from favour as the head ornament of private persons and was replaced by the fillet, apparently a band of linen, papyrus or palm-leaf secured by tapes at the rear and sewn with leaves and flower petals. These are shown, in the contemporary tomb paintings, being handed to guests together with the floral collars. Doubtless more permanent versions were made in bead-work, faience or metalwork; but if so, none has survived. The only proof of their existence is the cast left in the hardened resin-soaked bandages still adhering to the despoiled mummy of Queen Meryt-amun of the early Eighteenth Dynasty, v evidently was buried wearing one or more of these fillet bead-work instead of the boatman's circlet, or perhaps addition to it.

Another means of decorating the hair was provided the wig ornaments that are shown on the monument! the Early Middle Kingdom, and actual examples of who were found in the burials of Seneb-tisi and the Prince Sit-Hathor-Yunet. The first of these had ninety-eight rosettes of beaten sheet-gold interspersed at regular intervals with the tresses of her hair or wig. The prince had a great quantity of short gold tubes of two sizes which could be threaded on her braided locks in a chequer pattern so as to give the appearance of a complete gold reticulation covering the wig. Similar hair tubes we found in the treasure of Dahshur.

Falcon Collar
A more elaborate and opulent development of the wig ornaments is found in the Eighteenth Dynasty, when the treasure of the queens of Tuthmosis III yielded elements of at least two head covers consisting of inlaid gold rosettes, graduated in size, strung between vertical ribs of small gold tubular beads. The complete example hi a chased golden crown-plate at its summit from which falls this scintillating cascade of inlaid gold elements.

Among the hair ornaments are perhaps to be include the nekhau, or amuletic pendant in the form of a fish which was evidently attached to the side-lock of children perhaps as a protection against drowning. The nekhau was usually made of green stone; and famous Egyptian tali tell of the consternation that was caused when the turquoise fish pendant of one of the young maidens which were rowing King Sneferu on his pleasure-lake fell into the water. Several such hair ornaments have survived in turquoise and gold besides other materials.

Another hair jewel used only by children was a hair-ring or clasp for keeping the youthful side-lock in order. These must have been in fashion from the earliest times but it is only in the New Kingdom that they are represented in detail, and become increasingly elaborate as the age wears on. The sons of Ramesses III, for instance, are shown in their tomb paintings as wearing one or more decorative slides to their side-locks. No hair-rings have been positively identified and a dispute exists as to whether certain penannular gold ornaments are rings for the hair or ears. It seems to the writer that the Ramessid hair-clasps take the form of small bracelets, which would provide the most convenient way of confining a thick and braided lock of hair.

Limestone relief in archaizing style showing women carrying collars, a counterpoise and a sweret-bead necklace. 4th Cent. BC. Cairo Museum
The earring was unknown in Egypt during the Old and Middle Kingdoms; but it comes into general use at the end of the Second Intermediate Period, probably as a result of a general dissemination of foreign ideas stimulated by the Hyksos domination, since earrings had been known in Asia for at least a thousand years earlier, as jewelry from the royal cemetery at Ur reveals. The first notable example found in Egypt is a pair, each made of four penannular ribbed tubes soldered together, which comes from a woman's burial at Western Thebes that may be dated to the last years of the Seventeenth Dynasty. Such rings were worn through holes of large diameter perforated in the ear-lobes, judging by the size of that portion of the jewel which was to be inserted. 

So unlikely has it seemed to some Egyptologists that these rings could be worn in the ear, that examples have been described as hair-rings; and it has been assumed that the tresses they were designed to keep in place were introduced into the gap in the ring almost hair by hair until the ring was packed tight. Experiment by the writer, however, has shown that the springy nature of living hair prevents penannular rings from staying in place; and no such ornaments can be seen in representations of women's coiffures on the monuments, however detailed they may be. An even larger, semicircular, hole must have been made for the penannular rings made in red jasper that have been retrieved in such quantity from burial-grounds. 

A number of these stone earrings have perforations on their periphery to take pendants. Heavy rings in thick gold or bronze have a similar exceptionally narrow gap in which to insert the ear-lobe; and the problem remains of how they were fitted to the ears. Perhaps, like their stone counterparts, they were clipped on to the ear in infancy. The metal specimens may have been pinched together once they had been inserted, but no such method of closure could have been employed on the stone rings.

Miniature Broad Collar, gold inlaid with carnelian, felspar and lapis lazuli, made for adorning a cult-statue. Ptolemaic Period Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The most popular earring during the Eighteenth Dynasty was made of a number of hollow triangular gold hoops soldered together; these were evidently worn by women, a pair in each ear-lobe, if we are to judge by four examples still in situ on the mummy of a woman at Turin, and the double perforations in the ears of Tuyu at Cairo. The fashion for wearing a ring in the ear was less popular with men and was slow to be adopted. Yuya, the husband of Tuyu, has unpierced ear-lobes, though large earrings for men had been in use or at least two generations. The ear-lobes of Tuthmosis III are apparently unpierced, whereas those of his son Amenophis II have small perforations. Mai-her-pra, Tuthmosis IV, and Tut-ankh-amun, however, had a large hole in each ear that would have taken the thick tubes from which their ear-ornaments were suspended. It has been assumed that such earrings were worn by boys only until the age of puberty, when they were laid aside. Tomb paintings and reliefs exist, however, showing that on occasion adult men wore earrings.

Parallel with the development of the earring goes the evolution of the ear-stud which was introduced at the Amarna Period. Mushroom-shaped specimens in stone, glass, metal or faience have been found in which the shank could be inserted in the hole in the ear-lobe, leaving the circular boss, either plain or decorated, on the outside and in the plane of the ear, not at right-angled to it, as is the case with the earrings. A relief of Queen Tiye shows her wearing a stud in the form of a flower, the long stem of which has been threaded through the hole in her ear-lobe. 

Sculptures of Nefert-iti and Tiye depict them wearing large plugs or studs in their ears. It is in fact at this period that the stud developed into the plug, a disk of metal or faience with a grooved edge that could be inserted into large holes in the ear-lobes. The earliest known example is the specimen believed to come from the Royal Tomb at Amarna, and now in Edinburgh, which has a heavy ornamental disk with a wide flange in place of a shank. The granular and filigree work on this specimen has a somewhat un-Egyptian appearance and the fashion for such barbaric jewels may have spread from Asia. 

From this time, however, the practice of wearing ever heavier and larger ear-plugs developed steadily in Egypt until by the Twenty-first Dynasty the women of the ruling house were wearing, in addition to earrings, plugs of such a size that their ear-lobes were distended to mere stringy loops of flesh, as their mummies plainly reveal. Subsequent dynasties, however, show a less extreme form of fashionable mutilation, though it is true that we lack the mummies of the royal women from which to draw a proper comparison.

Wile of Mereruka wearing a menkhet
In contrast to such barbarities, the Egyptians did not perforate the septum or wings of the nose for the insertion of a ring, though such an ornament was in use in Asia and Nubia. A statuette, formerly in the Amherst Collection, shows a Nubian woman or godling, with her brood children represented as apes, all wearing silver nose-rings A burial of the tenth century BC, excavated at Abydos yielded a nose-ring in position on the body of a woman but this is an isolated case and she may well have be foreigner.

The ornaments for the neck are developments of charm strung upon a cord. At one extreme they become pectorals, at the other, collars. The pebble polish perforated, and threaded on a string of leather or linen is one of the commonest amulets of prehistoric times; this primitive jewel survived in the barrel-shaped camel sweret-bead, usually flanked by a green cylindrical or t bead which the texts specify should be hung around I neck or on the breast of the deceased. Sometimes a large number of such beads are mentioned, so that the pendant has in effect become a necklace. A string of shell, stone faience beads is found in even the poorest of burials; am number of such necklaces connected by spacer elements becomes the collar.

The collar in ancient Egypt is so universal that it virtually an item of dress. The most popular version is the Broad Collar, composed of cylindrical beads or tub, strung vertically in rows in a semicircular or penannular shape and terminating in two lunate end-pieces, and lowermost row of drop beads. Such collars are found painted on statues and reliefs from the Early Old Kingdom but have rarely been recovered intact, though a notable gold and faience example of Sixth Dynasty date is at Boston A version of the Broad Collar known as the 'Collar of the Falcon', with terminals in the form of falcon heads, is often found painted on coffins and in funerary contexts. A number of actual examples have survived in various, materials: faience, metal and stone. More elaborate versions substitute beads fashioned as hieroglyphs for the simple tubes of the main body of the collar.

Boatmen with lotus flower pectorals
The coffin pictures of the Middle Kingdom also acquaint us with the 'Collar of Green Stone', the 'Collar of Lap Lazuli' and the 'Collar of Gold', the 'Collar of Silver' and the 'Collar of Electrum', referring to the kinds of beads used in their composition. But there are also other funerary collar apparently cut out of sheet-gold and chased in the form of birds with wings outspread and curving up into a semicircular shape. Such collars are described as of the go Horus, in the form of a falcon; of the goddess Nekhebet, in the form of a vulture; of the goddess Edjo, in the form of vulture, but with a cobra's head; and of the goddesses Edjo and Nekhebet with two bodies or heads. Actual example are very rare, probably because they were proper only t, royal burials. The few that do survive have been found o the bodies of Pharaohs. Tut-ankh-amun, for instance, was covered with sets of such collars not only in sheet-gold In also in flexible cloisonné-work of great elaboration.

All such Collars were designed to be worn with a menkhet, a counterpoise which hung down the back of the neck and balanced some of the weight of the collar in front. Such counterpoises are pictured on the monuments, but few examples worn in life with a Broad Collar appear to have survived, although funerary versions do exist, notably those in both plain sheet-gold and cloisonné-work which were inserted in the wrappings of Tut-ankh-amun.

Daughter of Khufu-khaf
With the Eighteenth Dynasty a new type of collar, a bead version of a garland of flowers and leaves, makes its appearance. In such collars the terminals are usually in the form of lotus flowers and buds. The natural garlands were made by sewing rows of leaves, flower-petals, berries and fruits, interspersed with faience beads, onto several sheets of papyrus and securing the ends by tapes. This type of floral collar persisted even as a funerary adjunct, sometimes appearing with falcon-head terminals on the coffins of all subsequent periods.

A special kind of necklace is the choker, closely hugging the column of the neck just below the chin; this is a narrow band of bead-work, with spacers at intervals, worn by women during the Old Kingdom. It was evidently secured at the back with tie strings, if we are to judge from the coffin pictures of the Middle Kingdom; by then it had ceased to be fashionable, though it is still represented in the Late Period on figures of goddesses wearing archaic dress.

The simple jewel in the form of a single pendant or amulet, such as the sweret-bead hanging from a cord around the neck, developed on different lines from the necklaces into the pectoral. In the Old Kingdom such pendants occur sporadically, being attached to a cord strung at intervals with supplementary beads, and have the appearance of shells, or shell-forms made in other materials. A common pendant, shown on the monuments of the Old Kingdom as the regalia of palace officials, is the fetish of the goddess Bat, which later was transformed into the sistrum of the cognate deity Hathor. This jewel is in the form of the cow-eared face of a woman wearing in-curving horns on her head and a trapezoidal panel of beads falling below her chin. The pendant is frequently combined with a girdle knot. The figure of Bat sometimes appears as a decorative element in the pectoral ornaments of the jewelry of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, after which she loses her identity to the great goddess Hathor.

Pectoral of electrum, the hardstone inlays missing: the reverse chased with heraldic figures of the gods of upper and lower
Some representations of the Broad Collar during the Old Kingdom show a bead panel hanging from the centre of the lower edge as a pectoral. This panel can also be attached to the collar by straps; or can be independent of it, hanging from the neck by straps that pass over or under the Broad Collar. Sometimes it takes a trapezoidal shape, probably inspired by a lotus-flower which is occasionally worn hanging down from the neck. The lower border of such pectorals is finished as a row of drop beads, and its straps end in falcon-head terminals.

During the Middle Kingdom, both types of pectoral underwent a rapid development. Large trimmed pearl-shells were worn as pendants, particularly in Nubia where they were popular until very recently. They were frequently inscribed with the protective name of the reigning Pharaoh. More sophisticated versions made in precious metals or cloisonné-work has survived from the period and each of the princesses buried at Dahshur appear to have had at least one pendant of this type in her parure. 

The trapezoidal pectoral is also inscribed with the prophylactic name of the Pharaoh, and in the royal jewels is transformed into the kiosk-shaped primeval shrine which acts as a frame for the king's cartouche supported by heraldic devices, whether in the form of plants or animals. If the name is absent, the royal attributes are represented in symbolic form. Such pectorals were worn in life on simple bead necklaces, though other contemporary examples have straps of bead-work. Later specimens, such as those belonging to Tut-ankh-amun, are very elaborate with intricate straps and counterpoises.

Pendant with Bat insignia tomb of Khufu-khaf.
The importance of the pectoral ornament increases with the rise in popularity of the scarab amulet. By the beginning of the New Kingdom a large image of this beetle carved in a green stone had replaced other stone pendants worn on the breast of the deceased. Such 'heart-scarabs, inscribed with magical texts which insured the wearer against self-condemnation at the Last Judgment, are common thereafter and are incorporated as a central element in the design of the shrine-shaped pectorals. But all such scarab pectorals are restricted to funerary use.

The jewel worn over the hips by women was the girdle, the chief function of which was amuletic. Girdles are not represented in the Old Kingdom when women, even servant-girls as distinct from children, are not represented in the nude. In the Middle Kingdom, concubine figures in faience, wood, clay and other materials are sometimes shown as wearing cowrie-shell girdles. In the New Kingdom there are many pictures of nude handmaidens and young girls clearly wearing the girdle about their hips: sometimes it is shown as though worn outside the gown.

One of the earliest complete examples has been retrieved from the deposit of Sit-Hathor-Yunet. The large beads are in the form of hollow gold cowrie-shells strung on two cords with acacia-seed beads of gold, green felspar and carnelian spaced between. The princesses buried at Dahshur also had cowrie-shell girdles, one of slightly different pattern; and similar girdles in gold and silver have been found in other burial-grounds of the Middle Kingdom. Towards the end of her life, Sit-Hathor-Yunet acquired another girdle of different design with the large beads in the form of double leopard heads, and the spacer-beads of identical shape but on a smaller scale. The two strings were threaded with amethyst ball beads. Another of the Dahshur girdles was of a similar design which, however, had a very brief fashion, being replaced before the New Kingdom by girdles of less massive appearance with modest spacer-beads of semicircular shape separated by small ring or barrel beads. In o example belonging to a queen of Tuthmosis Ill, the spacers are in the form of the fish amulet.

Belts as distinct from girdles were worn by men support their kilts around the waist; but a development of the woman's girdle is the belt worn by one or mo of the queens of Tuthmosis III. This was composed seven rows of acacia-seed beads, similar to the specimens in Sit-Hathor-Yunet's earlier girdle, in gold, carnelian turquoise, and probably blue faience or glass. The gold beads are soldered together to make spacer-bars and two plain bars form the clasp. Elements of three belts c different lengths have survived, but only enough beads have been secured by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to make one complete example. Such pieces of women': costume jewelry is unknown from any other source and is not represented on the monuments: they probably reflect a foreign fashion adapted by an Egyptian jeweller.


The ornaments of the arm, which were worn by both sexes, comprise armlets for the upper arm and bracelets for the wrists. They could be either flexible or rigid, depending upon whether their prototype was a string of beads or a section of elephant tusk, a type of bangle which is still in fashion today in various parts of Africa. In the Old and Middle Kingdoms, only bracelets were worn: armlets do not make their appearance on the monuments until the beginning of the New Kingdom. Nevertheless, it is clear that single strings of beads were sometimes worn above the elbow, as was found to be the case when the mummy of Princess Ashyet of the Eleventh Dynasty came to be unwrapped.

The rigid armlets are copies of shell or ivory prototypes. The earliest known example in gold dates to the Archaic Period, but the silver bracelets of Queen Hetep-her-es are of the same design, though inlaid with coloured stones. Such bracelets in graduated sets were worn only by women on the forearms. They went out of fashion during the later Fourth Dynasty. The simple ring bangle, square in cross-section, was originally of ivory, but in time, versions in metal and faience were also made. During the Eighteenth Dynasty they appear to have been worn in pairs on the upper arm, particularly during the period from Amenophis II to Amenophis III. A metal version of what looks like an ivory bracelet is found in the reign of the latter king worn on the wrist of one arm only, whereas in the reign of his son Akhenaten an example is worn on each wrist.

Egypt confronting the emblem of Bat below the protective eyes of the sun-god. XIIth Dynasty. Eton College, Windsor
The jewelry from the tomb of King Djer at Abydos shows that flexible bead bracelets were in use by the First Dynasty, and the future development lay only in the use of spacer beads and an increase in the number of strings of beads that could be incorporated into such jewels by lengthening the spacer-bars. Methods of fastening the ends of the band together were also devised as an improvement on the mere knotting of tie-strings which was apparently the original means if we are to trust the coffin pictures of the Middle Kingdom. The Dahshur and Lahun bracelets had a detachable inlaid member which was part of the decorative pattern and could be slid into position on grooved bars forming the terminal spacers of the bead-work.

An elaboration of the simple string of beads worn on the upper arm, as for instance by Princess Ashyet, is the so-called motto-clasp favoured by the royal women of the next dynasty. These are inlaid jewels composed of glyphs and symbols forming a name, motto, or good wish; and were fastened to the upper arm with a cord or string of small gold beads. Associated with them are other single strings of beads incorporating figures of recumbent lions, which were apparently worn by the princesses as bracelets. By the time of King Ka-mose of the Seventeenth Dynasty such jewels had become armlets. 

He had a pair of lions flanking the name of his brother Amosis; they had originally been tied by a stout cord around his right arm, though they were found loose in the debris in his coffin. The motto-clasp had thus become combined with the lion figurines, and the integration of the two types of bracelet is found in the complete gold armlet belonging to Ka-mose's mother, Queen Ah-hotpe, who in life certainly won above her elbow. Similar feline animals, such as c and sphinxes made in gold or hardstones, are incorporated in the jewelry dated to the centuries following the fall the Twelfth Dynasty and are still to be seen in the armlets of the queens of Tuthmosis III.

Collar of Edjo and Nekhebet
The flexible wristlets and the rigid bangles combine the functions in the hinged bracelets which also appear at t beginning of the New Kingdom, when two half-cylinders metal are hinged together at both edges, one hinge having a retractable pin to allow the encircling band to be opened. Simple plain bracelets of gold in this design we supplied for the queens of Tuthmosis III; but other bracelets in the parure were more elaborate, with inlays ribbed carnelian, felspar and glass cemented in position being in fact rigid versions of the bead-and-spacer bracelets of the Middle Kingdom.

As the New Kingdom progressed, even more opulent arm ornaments were made in this design; and the carnelian and sard plaques of Amenophis III, the massive bracelets and armlets found on the limbs of Tut-ankh amun, and the gold bracelets of Rarnesses II from the Tell Basta hoard are all in the same tradition. So are the silver pair found in the burial of Queen Twosre' daughter, though their flimsy construction may owe much to the probability that they were destined only for funerary use.

The ornaments of the legs, the anklets, are indistinguishable in design and manufacture from those of the arms. In the coffin pictures they are identical; and both in actuality and on the monuments they were made en suite. Generally, however, the anklets are rather less deep than the bracelets, though not, for instance, in the case of the jewelry worn by a daughter of Djehuti-hotpe at Deir el-Bersha. They are shown as worn by women only until the early Ramessid period. As it is physically impossible to pass a rigid ring over the instep so as to make it fit snugly around the lower leg, anklets were at first of flexible bead-work secured with ties or clasps. Later, they too were made solid and hinged in two halves, so that it is difficult to distinguish them from bracelets. One such specimen, found on the body of Tut-ankh-amun, has been identified as a bracelet, though it was found in the region of the King's legs. It is probable that all such leg ornaments were worn just above the ankle.

Flexible Vulture Collar and counterpoise made of 250 separate gold elements inlaid with coloured glass and strung together: from the mummy of Tut-ankh-amun. XVIIIth Dynasty. Cairo Museum
 A peculiarity of women's anklets in the Middle Kingdom is the bird-claw pendant worn on a string or double string of beads. Some of these pendants are very elaborate; the specimens belonging to the Princess Khnumet found at Dahshur were of goldwork, with an imbricated pattern in cloisonné-work. Usually one claw only was worn over the outer ankle-bone, but anklets exist where several claws are spaced at intervals on the same string of beads.

Towards the end of the Old Kingdom there came into fashion a novel type of seal, to which archaeologists have given the description 'button seal' from the appearance of the majority of such objects. They are usually made of glazed steatite, but may be carved from other substances. They were soon ousted from favour by the scarab, however, which were partly an amulet and partly a signet. Many thousands of scarabs were thenceforward to be made in Egypt, mostly in glazed steatite but also in other materials, and have become the characteristic product of ancient Egypt and of modern forgers.

Essentially they are objects of cabochon shape, pierced through their greater diameter by a thread-hole, the convexity being carved more or less realistically as a scarab beetle, and the base usually incised with an inscription. The first scarabs may have been worn like a bead on a string; but the custom soon arose of tying them on the fingers by a thread. In more permanent examples, the thread was replaced by gold wire; and at that point the signet ring had been invented. The finds at Dahshur and Lahun yielded nearly three dozen scarabs in cloisonné-work and precious stones inscribed with the names of the princesses or contemporary Pharaohs, as well as decorative devices. About a third of them are strung on gold wire rings with their ends coiled to imitate linen thread.

During the Second Intermediate Period the finger-ring underwent a full mechanical development, the wire being thickened into a rod of hoop shape with knopped ends, around which the thinner suspensory wire could be wrapped. The next stage was to flatten the knops and perforate those in order to take a thick wire rivet on which the scarab could turn. Another method was to draw out the ends of a length of thick wire bent into a ring and to insert them from opposite ends of the hole in the scarab, coiling the emergent lengths onto the body of the ring. At the same time the scarab itself was mounted in a gold or silver funda with tubes to take the rivet or wires. 

The last stage in the development was to cast the ring and a non-swivelling scarab-shaped bezel in one piece, and such massive metal signet rings are characteristic of the Amarna Period, when lighter versions in faience were also made, probably for distribution as favors on the occasion of festivals and Court functions. Different ways of making metal finger-rings, however, were employed at the same time; but the only change that the finger-ring underwent in post-Amarna times was a tendency for the bezel to be isolated from the mass of the ring and to assume more the appearance of an inscribed plate attached to a hoop.

Other amulets, such as the wedjet-eye, in hard stones may take the place of the scarab in finger-rings worn for decorative or protective purposes. The ring with an inscribed bezel acting as a signet appears to be an Egyptian invention, the development of which can be traced. It is worthy of note, however, that decorative types of finger-rings, fully evolved, appear in the Dahshur treasure, and since their bezels are ornamented with granular designs, it is probable that the finger-ring, as distinct from the signet, was in origin an Asiatic import.

There are several jewels which, although represented on the monuments, have not been found in actuality. Thus queen-mothers and principal queens are shown on state occasions wearing an elaborate ornament on their hair or wigs in the form of the feathered skin of a vulture, its head thrust forward over the brow, the body fitting the skull like a cap, its tail descending over the occiput, and each wing and leg falling on each side of the head behind the ear. The wig-cover in New York, however, gives us more than a hint of how such jewels were made in reality. They must have been composed of plates of gold cloisonné-work, threaded together to form a flexible headgear of great magnificence and no little weight.

There are also stoles in bead-work, of which only one possible example has survived from the tomb of Tut-ankh-amun. Certain garments peculiar to the king, such as the imbricated corselets and the apron hanging from the belt, though made in gold cloisonné-work, are to be regarded more as items of dress than as jewels. Again, the only specimens known belong to Tut-ankh-amun, In the same category of clothing are to be placed the belts made of bead-work, sometimes in the funerary versions having an apron of long bead pendants. An exception, however, is perhaps to be made of the belt of Prince Ptah-Shepses of the Fifth Dynasty, which is more the work of the jeweller than the tailor.

The thin ribbons, presumably of gold in the wealthiest examples, which bound the bouffant coiffures or wigs of women in the Middle Kingdom and Early New Kingdom, have not been found intact; and the bobbins with carnelian bosses, around which the ends of the two large pendant wings of these same wigs were wound, have not been identified. Conversely, a curious amuletic pendant in the form of a tubular case, usually decorated in various ways, and generally hollow though sometimes solid, has never satisfactorily been explained, though it is often found in the graves of women during the Middle Kingdom, and even as late as the reign of Tuthmosis III.

Writer – Cyril Aldred
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