Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Levant Ancient Jewelry

Ring Unknown, 14th to 13th century B.C.E.
The term Levant is derived from middle French, and means the land where the sun rises." The area known as the Levant is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west the Arabian Desert to the north, Upper Mesopotamia to the east, and Egypt to the south. In ancient times, the Levant's physical location made it a bridge between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Southern Levant, also known as Canaan in the Bible, consists of modern-day Israel, Lebanon, and southern Syria. The culture of Canaan was influenced by dealings with Egypt, while the northern Levant, now northern Syria, was more influenced by Mesopotamia. As a result the jewelry and decorative arts of the Levant are result of an amalgam of societies.

Lunate-shaped earrings were found in Mari and Ur and were widely distributed in Canaan during this period.
According to scientists, settlements existed in the Levant from as far back as 10,000 B.C.E. when most humans were still primarily food gatherers.

Archaeologists have found jade beads iii the area that date back to 9000 B.C.E. By the Chalcolithic Period (4000-3200 the people of the Levant were using copper; scientists have also discovered semiprecious jewelry components such as carnelian, turquoise, limestone, and hematite from this era.


Gift of Jonathan Rosen, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem IMJ 92.17.239
By the third millennium B.C. E., known as the Canaanite Period, the Levant was urbanized and actively trading with Egypt. This era, referred to by many historians as "the age of gold," saw a rise in Egypt's impact on the culture of Canaan. Because the Levant had limited resources, it imported gold from Egypt as well as from Arabia.

 In the Bible, Genesis 2:10-12 states: "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden: and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold: And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone."

One important discovery by archaeologists was the finding of anthropoid burial coffins in Deli el-Balah with stylized faces, arms and hands. Jewelry from this time was discovered inside.Canaan's culture evolved during the middle Bronze Age (2200-15oo B.C.E), as the Semitic Hyksos (meaning "rulers of foreign countries") reigned over Egypt, bringing peace and prosperity to the region. One of the most important archaeological discoveries from this period is the jewelry at Tel el-Ajjul near Gaza, where earrings, bracelets, and rings with Egyptian motifs were uncovered.

One popular Egyptian design is the scarab ring, based on the image of the dung beetle, an Egyptian symbol of new life. The dung beetle rolls its dung into a hole where it serves as food not only for the adult beetles but also for the larvae. -I-he larvae are laid on the mound and eventually they develop into new beetles.

Egyptians associated this regenerative process with Ra. the creator god. To ward off evil, scarabs were worn by the living as well as the dead, regardless of social class.

This necklace consists of two hundred forty-four carnelian and gold beads and wedjat eye amulets. The center gold spacer is decorated in the repousse technique; it depicts an image of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, the goddess of love and joy.
The Egyptians introduced new jewelry techniques to artisans of the Levant. These new processes included granulation, in which gold or another metal is soldered with minute grains of gold to make a pattern and filigree, in which gold or silver wires are twisted and curled to make a decorative pattern.

By 155o B.C.E. (the late Bronze Age), despite the Egyptian Pharaoh Altmose's expulsion of the Semitic Hyksos, the Egyptians continued their interest in Canaan. The Pharaoh sent gold, jewelry, and ivory not only to Byblos, but to such Canaanite ports as Tyre and Sidon. Most Levantine jewelry of the late Bronze Age was made in Canaan but inspired by Egyptian culture.

The shape of this amulet combines the human eye with the eye of the falcon, as it represents the falcon-god Horus. According to Egyptian mythology, the eye of Horus was a symbol of power.
The archaeological findings at Deir el- Balah, a burial site in Canaan, are evidence of the influence of the Egyptians on the Canaanites. Archeologist’s uncovered burial coffins as well as goods such as seals, pottery, and jewelry made of bronze, silver, copper, gold, and carnelian. These coffins, or sarcophagi, were typically two meters long and distinguished by two main features: exaggerated facial features sculpted in clay and hands crossed over the chests.

The gold and carnelian jewelry also believed to be from Deir el- Balah, shown on pages and above, also exhibits Egyptian influence.
Eight pendants formed in the shape of pomegranates, a common her in the repertoire of late Canaanite jewelry. According to some historians, pomegranates were important in Jewish custom because the fruit's approximately 613 seeds represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. Some scholars even believe the pomegranate represents the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
Carnelian a member of the quartz family is brown in color in its natural state, and Egyptians believed it had mystical powers.

Egyptian tombs were replete with such carnelian jewelry because they believed the stone would assist with passage into the next life.
These earrings are made of eight twisted gold wires soldered together. There are eleven rows of tiny gold beads formed by granulation soldered onto the wires.
 The carnelian and gold necklace on especially beautiful, not only because the hand-carved blossom beads are separated by gold spacers, but also because the gold, center of the necklace portrays the Egyptian goddess Hathor, the goddess of love and joy

The center of each of these earrings is decorated with a grape cluster of five gold beads fused together using granulation.
An eye-shaped red jasper amulet found at Deir el-Balah. It was originally set in a pendant and worn around the neck, presumably to ward off evil. Other discoveries at Deir el-Balah include the rounded scarab here and the square scarab on the opposite page. These faience scarabs were created with a jewelry process that was invented in Egypt around 3300 B.C.E., whereby quartz is pounded to make paste and then glazed to look like precious stone.

Egyptian influence is also evident in the pomegranate-shaped pendants on the facing page. Pomegranates are a traditional symbol of fertility because of the large number of seeds contained inside the fruit. Although the tree was not native to Egypt, King 'Thutmose 1 grew the plant and conducted botanical studies of it.
These rosettes are stamped in repousse. The edges protrude on the back, which indicates that these objects were sown to a garment or ribbon, a practice used during this time.
One of Canaan's major industries was the production of wine. Hence we sec the grape cluster motif on both pairs of gold earrings on the opposite page.

Another element common in jewelry from this time and place is the spacer. a device used as a decorative link in place of a necklace's regular beads. Six gold spacers are featured here.

Other jewelry from this period includes the two gold leaf rosettes, shown on the next page. These gold rosettes were sewn onto clothing, continuing a tradition that originated in Ur.

Around 1200 B.C. E. the mysterious "People" unsuccessfully attempted to invade Egypt. Some say the Seheople were pirates, responsible for causing conflict in the Levant that lasted several decades.


The floral decoration on these spacers is made in repousse in the form of papyrus bundles.
Nevertheless, the economy of the Levant was thrown into turmoil from which it did not recover until the ninth century B. C. E.

The purchase of jewelry resumed with the emergence of Phoenician trading. The Phoenicians from Canaan were called "Purple People" because they traded purple textile dye made from mollusk shells from Tyre.
These gold earrings consist of eight gold wires soldered together.
 The three main Phoenician trading cities were Tyre. Byblos and Sidon Soon, the Levant was trading with everyone from Sicily to Spain.

A Phoenician brooch with Spanish influence. This Tree of Life brooch has three little chains of the type later seen in Greek jewelry.
This necklace consists of sixty-nine carnelian pomegranate-shaped and round beads, two gold beads, and one scarab.
The theme of life and the Garden of Eden, complete with goats and birds, is typical of the Phoenicians. One of4the distinctive elements of this particular piece is the combination of granulation and repousse, which is created by hammering the metal from behind to make the pattern stand out in front.

A group of objects shown on the next page features typical Phoenician jewelry of this period: Innate gold earrings adorned with a pendant knob, rings, hinged hoop bracelets, and an eye pendant made of gold and glass paste.

Egyptian influence is notable in the bezels, or metal rims. of the rings and the eye pendant, which are modeled after the Egyptian symbol of the Eye of Horns, a protective amulet against evil.
This is a beautiful example of Phoenician ivories used as inlays in Assyrian furniture. A similar plaque is on display in the British Museum. 
In the late ninth to early eighth century B.C.E., the Assyrians defeated Syria and offered an ultimatum to the people of the Levant: either pay homage to the monarchy of the Assyrian Empire or resist and face its large army The Phoenicians had no choice but to welcome the Assyrians: they paid tribute in gold, silver, ebony and linen.

In the Phoenician ivory relief shown here, we can see the influence of both the Assyrians and the Egyptians. 

At the palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nitwit& excavated in the nineteenth century by Austin Henry Layard, historians learned more about these Phoenician ivories. Many of them were furniture inlays for magnificent thrones and chests. The relief shown here, which features a king plucking a flower from the sacred tree, most likely adorned a ceremonial couch. The style of carving has an Egyptian flavor; a similar relief can be found in the British Museum.

Writer – Judith Price
Visit Also:

Silver Jewelry 

Wooden Jewelry

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