Of the many ancient artifacts uncovered by modern archaeologists, few are more rare or more exquisite than examples of Egyptian jewelry. Exquisite because of the detail and craftsmanship – rare due to extensive grave robbing in the Valley of the Kings throughout the centuries. It is believed that most of Egypt’s tombs were plundered by tomb raiders within a century of being sealed. Meticulous inventories were often kept to record the items entombed with pharaohs and other high born Egyptians. In some instances, items which were indicated to belong to one pharaoh were found entombed with a later ruler – indicating that some of the burial riches were…let’s just say recycled.
Ancient Egyptians wore jewelry for many reasons. The simplest was the same reason many of us wear jewelry today – because it’s beautiful. Ancient or modern, humans are drawn to beauty and probably always will be. In addition, as a symbol of status, ornate pieces in gold, copper, and bronze were often inlaid with natural stones of carnelian, lapis lazuli, and obsidian indicating an individual of wealth and means. Ancient Egyptians placed great importance in symbolism and imbued nearly every detail with meaning from the type of metals and stones to the colors, shapes, and themes of each piece. These elements were often combined in ways that Egyptians believed would protect them from evil or bring good fortune.
This brings me to my first pick for this week’s Throwback Thursday – SuperJeweler’s Gold Pyramid Ring! As you can see, it’s similar to an example of an ancient Egyptian ring, which, judging from the patina, was probably cast in bronze or copper. What’s interesting is the shape, and the significance of the small mound depicted on the ring. The ancient city of On (known to the Greeks as Heliopolis, or City of the Sun) was one of the most important cities in the region during the time of ancient Egypt. It was a place known for astronomy, geometry, medicine, history, and philosophy. Many of the greatest minds in human history – Solon, Pythagoras, Herodotus, Democritus, Opheus, and Homer traveled to On to study and speak to the Priests of Heliopolis – the calendar keepers of their day. The city of On was also the location of the Ben Ben stone, known as the Stone of Creation. According to legend, the Ben Ben stone was the first mound to appear as solid earth from the waters of chaos. The mythical Bennu Bird perched upon the Ben Ben stone and the cry of the Bennu marked the beginning of time. The Bennu was said to return to the stone every 500 years, each time marking a new era in human history. The mythology of the Bennu would eventually become the basis for the Greek legend of the Phoenix.
My second choice this week is another of SuperJeweler’s bib necklaces. The clothing of ancient Egypt was relatively plain. Animal fibers like wool or fur were occasionally worn by the wealthy, but were considered impure by most. Typically, linen made from flax was worn by both men and women – simple sheath dresses for women, and wrap around skirts for the men. What the Egyptians lacked in fashion design, however, they made up for in accessories. What we call bib necklaces today, were actually Egyptian versions of the collar used to ornament simple linen clothing. There were different designs for different classes and functions. It’s even believed the menat collar worn by religious dancers may have doubled as a musical instrument.
Finally, there’s no way I could pay homage to the jewelry of the ancient Egyptians and not include a snake bangle! The symbolism of the snake was extremely important to ancient Egyptians. An early use of this symbolism was the Uraeus, a stylized upright striking cobra. It’s often seen depicted on the crowns of Egyptian rulers. Uraei were representative of the goddess Wadjet, patroness of the Nile and Lower Egypt. This symbol indicated royalty was believed to protect the royal lines of Egypt. Snakes can also be found in the ouroboros – a circlet of a snake biting his own tale – signifying eternity and rebirth. Of course, snakes weren’t always kind to Egyptian rulers…just ask Cleopatra!
No matter what, you won’t need the riches of the pharaohs to enjoy these Egyptian themed goodies from SuperJeweler!