Jewelry of the Egyptian Tombs Part 2

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Examples of jewelry furnished by the Egyptian tombs are to be found in the museums of almost every country. Undoubtedly the finest collection is in the Viceregal Museum of Egyptian Antiquities at Cairo. It contains jewels of the earliest dynasties, very few of which are to be found outside it. Dating from the great Theban dynasties, the eighteenth and nineteenth, when the jeweler’s art reached its highest level, are many beautiful examples, notably the famous set of jewels discovered in the tomb of Queen Aah-hetep (1600 B.C.). Fine collections are also preserved in the British Museum, in Berlin, Munich, and in the Louvre.

Following the sequence of ornaments from the head downwards, mention must first be made of diadems or front-lets. These were composed either of ring ornaments, set with precious stones and strung in a variety of ways, which hung down over the temples, or of gold bands ornamented in cloisonn(^ inlay with the favorite allegorical representations of animals in various arrangements. In the case of royal personages there is a uraius in front.

Among all Oriental nations of antiquity of whom we have any accurate knowledge, earrings have always been in general use by both sexes ; but as far as can be judged from monuments, these ornaments appear in Egypt to have been worn by women alone. M. Fontenay’ claims that the holes visible in the ears of statues of Rameses II—such as the colossal head in the British Museum, cast from the original in the temple of Ipsamboul—have been pierced for earrings. But even so, earrings had probably only a sacerdotal or sacred significance,

and were worn by the sovereign only, and on very exceptional occasions. Earrings, however, found very little favour even among women until what in Egyptian chronology are comparatively late times. Those that do occur are of the simplest kind, formed of a ring-shaped hook for piercing the lobe of the ear, hung with a blossom-shaped or symbolical pendant. Large penannular rings of various materials were occasionally employed as ear ornaments; the opening in them enabling them to be fitted on to the upper part of the ear.

Necklaces appear to have played a very prominent part in Egyptian ornaments. No tomb seems to be without them, and the wall paintings also prove their very general use. Most frequent is a chain consisting of various materials strung together, generally with a large drop or figure in the center, and pendent motives introduced at definite intervals. The latter, of every imaginable variety of design, occur in rhythmical alternation, and are occasionally introduced between two rows of beads. The peculiarly severe and regular decorations of the Egyptians—more particularly the various charming adaptations of open and closed lotus flowers—are here found in the finest forms of application.

Especially is this shown on the ornament called the usekli collar, which figures on every mummy and mummy case. Formed of rows, generally of cylinder-shaped beads with pendants, strung together and gathered up at either end to the head of a lion or hawk or to a lotus flower, this collar or breast decoration covered the shoulders and chest, and is found in that position on the mummy, attached frequently to the winding-sheet.

One of the most important Egyptian ornaments is the pectoral, which, as its name implies, was worn on the breast, suspended by a ribbon or chain. In all probability it formed a portion of the everyday costume of men and women, but its symbolism points to its chief use as a mortuary ornament, and it is found on almost every mummy.

Pectorals are usually in the form of a pylon or shrine, in the middle of which is often a scarab, the emblem of transformation and immortality, adored by the goddesses Isis or Nephthys. These ornaments were made of metal—rarely gold, more often gilded bronze—and very frequently of alabaster, steatite, and basalt sometimes glazed, and of earthenware always glazed.

In the Cairo Museum is a pectoral of pure gold inlaid with carnelian, lapis-lazuli and turquoises, which was found at DashCir in 1894 in the tomb of the Princess Set-Hathor (twelfth dynasty). Discovered at the same time was a pectoral having at the top a vulture with outspread wings and below the name of Usertsen III supported on either side by hawk-headed sphinxes. The open-work pectoral of Queen Aah-hetep, of solid gold, also at Cairo, is one of the most beautiful of all specimens of Egyptian jewellery. Another golden pectoral, found in the tomb of Kha-em-uas, son of Rameses II, is in the Louvre.

Somewhat similar to the pectorals are jewels in the shape of conventional hawks. As emblems of the soul they are found placed upon the breast of the mummy The finest are made of pure gold decorated with cloisons shaped according to the natural formations of the body and wings of the bird. The talons grasp a pair of signet rings. Allied to these are ornaments known as csgides, which were occasionally also worn on the breast. A very beautiful specimen, the ccgis of Bast, is in the Louvre.

Continued in Part 3

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