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Ancient jewelry of the Middle East

Updated on February 12, 2018

Ancient jewelry of the Middle East.


The art of jewelry has influenced many cultures. Traditionally, jewelry displays distinctive character, presents intense artistic images, and carries rich cultural assets through plasticity and expression. The language of jewelry is fairly complex and hard to interpret. Just like popular ancient languages that dominated in certain historic periods, such as Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, Greek and Latin, the language of jewelry and the jewelry items themselves have changed and developed in time, according to laws and customs of historical development. Stylistic evolution from the Early Oriental to Hellenistic-Romanian trends served as a basis for the stylistic changes in the art of jewelry making. Aside from its external beauty properties, every jewelry object has a second, internal life triggered by its semantic significance and perceived through one’s mind, intuition or aesthetic sense.

Every artifact serves as a symbol of information. Apotropeic emblems, borrowed from everyday life, epos, or myths, and used in the art of jewelry making, carried a certain magical connotation. Popularity of a particular mythological plot line was connected to the very zeitgeist of the given time period, since the jewelry maker lived through it and tended to be deeply involved with the contemporary events. The art reflected the master’s interests in what was currently happening with the society.

Through the evolution of jewelry items it is possible to trace not only the historical and cultural situation, but also economical, political and social sides of ancient civilizations, as well as symbolism and semantics of the art produced.

The ancient masters employed various techniques, including casting, granulation, filigree, and inlay, among others. Certain items of jewelry serve as a testament to the advanced artistic skills of the jewelers. Among precious and semi-precious stones used by jewelers in the ancient world the most popular were garnets, rubies, cornelian stones, pearls and emeralds.


It is known that diadems were a special sign of a god or royalty. Gold garlands were kept in temples as parts of gold funds and were given as rewards for special achievements. Fragments of diadems were found among the finds of Oxus (see Treasure of Oxus, Dalton, London, 1964), and Tillya-tepe (Bactrian gold, Leningrad, 1985).

Characters crowned by similar head jewelry can be found on coins, intaglios, pottery, paintings, frescos and reliefs, which allow us to recognize them as royalty or god-like creatures. Most of diadems were gold. Sometimes they are made by the stamping method. Details and fragments of diadems are made in the shape of leaves, trefoils or rosettes.

Diadems were fastened onto a headdress, or sometimes were placed directly on the head: “

“and on the turban, in front of he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses (Leviticus, p.89) The Israel’s daughters wore gold head bands (Isaiah 3:18-19). Daughters of Israel wore gold headbands (Isaiah, 3.18-19).

Funeral diadem like one from the Tomb near Jerusalem, 1st BC. Plate cut from a sheet of gold, is not decorated, ends are tapered, has holes for fastenings. Cut trefoils are pasted onto a thin embossed ribbon, forming a diadem. A rosette is formed in its center, symbolizing Sun, with two sets of trefoils framing it on both sides. The entire composition is inscribed within a triangle, analogous to a triangular gable crowning a portico or facade. The pediment was the crowning feature of the Greek temple front. In this case, it is not a simple coincidence, but rather the idea of crowning the human body by a diadem, completing the entire jewelry ensemble. Similar elements may be found among examples of head jewelry of Minor Asia (see L’dossiers de l’archeologie #40, 1980 p.73, and p.22).


Earrings represent one of the most popular types of adornments at all times. There are many types and kinds of earrings. Mostly earrings were made of gold, sometimes of bronze earrings, and made out of electrum, naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.

As an example of earrings (as a popular item of jewelry), can be seen on an ancient sculpture. Like on one where the ears of small head are decorated with simple rings (no lock), which were made separately and especially for the head (like Sumerian woman, white marble, Mari, 3 mill.)

One of the widely-spread types is a circle-base ring shape. Decorative element is represented by zoomorphic ends, anthropomorphic images, plant elements, figure images, and the actual ring shape with thickening ends. Jewelers used casting, forging and later granulation. A steatite mold for casting, attributed to 13th-12th B.C., is an eloquent testimony to that ( Tell Abu Haban, discovered during archeological excavation). Among other stones, garnet was frequently used both as inserts and as separate pendants.

The earrings of the ancient Middle East demonstrate different stylistic trends: ancient Eastern, Hellenistic, Egyptian, and Hellenistic-Roman, which is typical for the ancient culture and art in this region, because it was an integral part of the overall context of the history of ancient civilizations. The adornments in question demonstrate certain stages of the art of jewelry developing in the ancient world.

Just as any other kind of adornments, earrings specified religious-magical function, gender specification, prosperity evaluation, and territorial sign. When used as amulets, the jewelry had two main functions - protection and “proliferation,” the latter implying fertility.

We must note that any image used in the jewelry was supposed to carry magical properties; a certain inner meaning was placed into each object. The very shape of the earrings was a circle, which signified protection. Gold was a solar metal, energy-giving; pomegranate carried similar connotations. In the art of Israel, pomegranates play a significant role (see Romanoff P., Jewish Symbols on Ancient Jewish Coins. Philadelphia, 1944, p.51-54). The ancient earrings are intended for both ears and nose rings are mentioned in the Book of Isaiah ((see the Old Testament, 3.18.20, p. 682) :

“In that day the Lord will take away… their tinkling ornaments about; the rings and nose jewelry.” (Isaiah, 3/18, 20).

Earrings were worn by men and women - In Tanah we read:

“…Aaron said to them, "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.” (Exodus: 31, 32/2, 3; 33/4-6).

Ancient Eastern Style

The simplest circular earrings with thickened ends are attributed to 13th-12th BC. These earrings are made in the ancient eastern style; they were very popular and kept their popularity up to the present times.

Like earring from Dir-El-Balach. (Similar items: Beth-Shamash, #18. Jewelry from the Ancient world, Jerusalem, 1969; Higgins R. Greek and Roman jewelry, London, 1961)

Based on its weight and diameter, we can identify some as a nose ring. This type was used as a good luck charm. (Similar items: #18, catalogue, Jerusalem, 1969)

The simple-style earrings- as a ring, can be dated precisely by using radioisotope analysis, especially consider the items’ popularity. Earrings of that type are well-known from the images of the Achaemenian era (guards of Persepolis wore a single earring similar to the one in our collection; today youths and young men prefer this type as well). Earrings of this type were produced by casting method followed by polishing.

It is necessary to note that the even earrings intended as pairs can differ by weight because of the degree of preservation. The weight is a very important issue of our items because some of them were used as an equivalent of money. A unified weight scale may have existed, and some jewelry items were specifically produced as a money equivalent. This tradition was widespread in ancient world. A detailed description can be found in Tanah.

Egyptian style earrings may be attributed to the same era, i.e., 13th-12th centuries BC. These types of earrings have vessel-shaped pendants. It is possible that these earrings are made by adding the pendant to the traditional ring-shaped earring (which could be worn on its own). The vessel-shaped pendant is similar to the necklace pendants .So, the earrings could be a part of an ensemble.

Stemmed vessel–shaped pendants from Dir –El-Balach demonstrate that the ring in the shape of a woven chain can be an independent earring by itself. Most of similar items are found among articles of the Beth-Shemesh treasure, so the earlier attribution (13th-12th BC.) is accurate. The earrings are made in the same style as cornelian necklaces. The pendants are the exact copy of each other, although different materials are used. The lock is similar to the ones found in Rhodes in 7th BC, for example, pomegranate pendants (Grienfanhagen A.Schmuck der alten welt, Berlin, 1974, p.20).

The shape of the pendant (“vessel on a stem”) can be found, for example, in necklaces made in the New Kingdom in 16th-12th BC. (Objects of Adornments, N.Y., 1984, cat. #9).

Another type of ancient earring is distinguished not only by its extraordinary shape, heavy-drop-shaped or stylized grape cluster, but also by its weight. Among similar items are articles of 12th BC (“Greek and Roman Jewelry,” Higgins R., London, 1961, cat. #12), as well among the late Greco-Roman articles (Goldschmuck der Romerzeit, Mainz, 1984, col.ill.) However, those are not identical.

Earrings with zoomorphic ends are made in a different Eastern-Hellenistic style. One of them has an amphora-shaped pendant. One is gold, the other is bronze. The earrings are based on a simple hoop.

Pair of cast earrings with heads of gazelles. (3.5 gr and 3.7 gr.) 2d B.C. – 1st A.D. Bronze.

Similar items: Bactrian gold (Leningrad, 1985)-armlets with lions’ heads from the 6th burial (#15), though sources go back to the Achaemenian Art (Dalton O. Treasure of the Oxus. London, 1964). More precisely, that phenomenon could be named as Greco-Persian zoomorphic style. The primary attribution of the earrings as the articles of the Roman period is rather vague chronologically but by the similarity with jewelry from Tillya-Tepe we can establish more accurate dates:”…a political situation was created uniquely favorable to a fusion of all these cultures into one- the Greco-Persian, where Greek and Persian influences could be reciprocal”..(Jewelry from the Ancient world, Jerusalem, 1969)

“.. this is the most popular earring type of this and subsequent Hellenistic period, the hoop earring with animal head finial, mainly heads of lions, goats and bovines, but also of sphinxes, horned lions and other imaginary beasts. The type seems to have begun in the 5th BCE, reaches its came in the Hellenistic period and dies out in Roman imperial times. The type is found in the various lands of the Persian Empire, including our region...” (Jewelry... Jerusalem, 1969)

Similar items also are among articles from Western Greece 6th-5thBC, Taman 3d-2d BC (A. Greifenhagen, Schmuck.., p.38) and the ones made in 2d-3d centuries BC from Roman-Germany Museum (see Goldschmuck der Romerzeit, Mainz, 1984, abb.14).

These earrings were supposed to be worn in a peculiar manner. When putting them on and hooking them up, the head of an animal is placed by the edges of ear as if protecting its opening like animal heads placed on a hand of a vessel that hold the edge of the vessel in their mouths (Stavisky, B. Central Asian Art-Art of Middle Asia, M.1974, ill,7; 50). This allows us to assume that the animals’ heads were intended to protect openings from evil spirits, especially in such important organs as ears.

Hellenistic style for example can contain an amphora-shaped pendant, which serves as a symbol of Greece. Similar items can be found among earrings dated 2d BC (see Schmuck der Alten welt.) A drop-shaped garnet is mounted in the top part of the earring; granulation is placed along the edges. This detail, later altered, can be found in the earrings made in the 19th-20th centuries, where, instead of precious stone- for example, garnet - cut glass and cornelian stones would be used (Sichova N., Jewelry of people from Central Asia and Kazakhstan-Yuvelirnoe iskusstvo narodov Srednei Azii i Kazahstana, Moscow, 1984, ill. #25). Amphora-shaped pendants with dolphin-shaped handles are widespread in the Hellenistic world in 1st-2d AD, particularly on the territory of Central Asia (Ancient Finds of Tajikistan, Drevnosti Tajikistana, Dushanbe, 1985, cat.270-271; 273-274).

Some earrings (temple-pendants) serve as an ensemble and can be attributed to the Hellenistic-Roman trend. Because of the width of the template (0.2), the overall static shape, and the item’s weight, we can assume that the ornament was intended as a set of temple-pendants. Temple pendants tend to be made in Roman style: the disk-shaped base and the grape cluster detail are similar to the gold earrings of the II century exhibited in the Römisch-GermanischesNationalMuseum (Godlschmuck der Romerzeit, Mainz, 1984, abb.12). Similar styles may be found among the items found in Tillya-tepe; for instance, pomegranate is widely used in the ornaments found in ancient Bactria (see fastenings found in the VI burial site, cat. #40). Please note that this fruit is quite popular in all eras; first and foremost, it is one of the oldest symbols of Israel, one of the fruits of the land of Canaan (see Romanoff, Jewish.., p.51-54).

Similar insets of pomegranate are also found on Syrian-Roman ornaments made in the I-II centuries. We must note that the connection between the Roman Empire and the Kushan empire (and the connection of the latter to India), and Buddhism, a religious movement new to these regions, had influenced the art of jewelry making. In India in particular the art of jewelry remains one of the most popular forms of applied art, from the ancient times to the present.

A different interpretation of the imagery and shape of the temple pendants is possible. Eros, one of the popular images in this time played a large part in the ancient world, especially in India. A disk with large granulation on some earrings in its center can be viewed as a depiction of a female breast. Goddesses with multiple breasts are frequently depicted, signifying fertility and prosperity. Simultaneously, the disk could also be viewed as a shield with an image of sun in its center.

Concerning the likely owner of the temple pendants, we must note that temple pendants were mostly worn by women, sometimes together with earrings. Such sets served as symbols of fertility, large number of off-spring, and may have been worn as a wedding ensemble. Temple pendants were usually attached to a headdress or a diadem (see Neva E., Classifying the Finds of the Tillya-tepe Burial Site by the Materials Used… Dushanbe, 1987, p. 151-154). After the discovery of the Tillya-tepe burial site, it was possible to analyze two types of ensembles (see Neva E., Ancient Jewelry from Central Asia-Yuvelirnoe iskustvo Srednei Azii v drevnii period, Tashkent, 1989, p.9).

Earring with three-part composition of the set ends with polished oval-shaped garnet another example. The three-part composition can present in the temple pendants as well. Three is a symbolic number -- it is the most popular symbol of the ancient civilization. According to the ancient philosophy, the world stands upon three things, the human family consists of three members – mother, father, and child, and the universe contains three worlds -- subterranean, terrestrial, and celestial. Note that the earring’s pendant has a conical shape, which is repeated in the temple pendant (in the bottom half) as well.

The Hellenistic-Roman trend introduced by gold earrings with an unusual image of a god or a celestial musician.

Similar items: see Bactrian Gold catalog, 3, 2, pl.87 p.148-149. A nude male figure, body is adorned with granulated ribbons. See Pugachenkova, Art of Bactria during the Kushan Era, M. 1979, p. 148-149, ill. 171.

Similar objects are found among the God’s pantheon of Kushan and India.

Gold earrings, from Jerusalem, represent a miniature nude male figure stamped in thin sheet gold. Each is bent into shape of ring and soldered to the hoop, together forming an earring. The man is wearing a wide headband, which fastens the top of the figure to the hoop. A miniature disk, in the shape of an eight-petal led rosette adorned with granulation, is soldered to the hoop above the figure's head. The man's features, a high forehead and long nose, can barely be made out.

The arms are bent at the elbows, and the hands rest on the hips. Each figure wears a filigree banderole, which passes diagonally from his right shoulder to his left hip. The banderole consists of two fine wires (each figure has two wires) soldered over, and adorned with granulation along both sides (both sides of wires of each figure). It is important that different kinds of granulation were employed - a row of granules on one earring and clusters of three - four on the other [1](Bactrian gold. Leningrad, 1985, cat. 3, 2; pl.87, p.148). Inside the earring, a ring-lock for a hook is soldered to the feet.

Similar items can be found in Greek and Roman jewelry, from the museums of Greece, Italy and Cyprus, where earrings of the same type (they are composed of a half-ring of plated wires, to which a nude figure of Eros is soldered) are similar to the ones we’re analyzing. According to some catalogues of ancient jewelry from the Mediterranean region, earrings with the image of Eros were very popular in the period of time between 3d BC – 1st AD. Although the Eros was a common motif in Hellenistic jewelry, chronological range and the analogies suggest that the earrings purchased in Jerusalem are from the period between the 4th-2d B.C.

Let us consider some iconographical details of similar items: the gold strip over the man's head recalls the flying fabric or fire-flame. The disk over the figure's head in the shape of an eight-petal rosette symbolizes the sun or universe and Eros, subordinate to the universal order. Eros is the ancient creator of cosmos out of chaos, the first-born spirit of conception. In women's jewelry, Eros's image emphasizes sensuality. The mirror image sashes of the figures follow the universal principle of magic opposition: Left-right, odd-even.

As an amulet, the earrings protected the ear. The choice of gold as the material is also significant. Gold is known to symbolize the sun and heat; it was believed to have antiseptic properties, which were used in medicine. It is therefore not by chance that gold acquired the epithet "noble", and not only because of its external properties, its glitter and being easy to work with.

The earrings could be used as an "energy permit" to the world of heavenly dwellers or as a donation to a temple. The size of the earrings and their weight are designed for a young woman. The small weight may point to the owner's social status in the middle stratum of society. If they served as money, as jewelry in the ancient world often did, the earrings could not have been of a high denomination.

It is therefore in spite of their Hellenistic inspiration and possible Israeli provenance that our earrings can find Central Asian parallels (Bactrian gold) and in Mediterranean region as well. Several closely related examples and number of variants have been discovered sporadically in regions as far north as southern Russia and as far south as Crete.* In a number of late fourth century earrings, a precious stone has been substituted for the rosette. Other parallels can be found in the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, the BritishMuseum and the Staatliche Museum, Berlin**

We have seen that there are close contacts and mutual influences between ancient countries of the period mentioned above This is attested by the techniques of stamping, granulation, as well as material, sheet gold, which characterized the craft of the artisans at the same time.

*Hackens T., Gold Jewelry, Louvan, 1983, p.82 **

Neck Adornments

There are no descriptions of necklaces in Tanah, but the Song of Songs contains a poetic metaphor: “The curves of your hips are like a necklace” (see 7.2, p. 678). It is possible that neck jewelry was not very popular. Aside from necklaces, neck jewelry includes beads, torques, and pectorals. As any other item of jewelry, the function of these ornaments was both magical and practical. For instance, torques -- metal plates or hoops with zoomorphic ends – held cloaks in place and protected against battle wounds; thus, a torque found in the Tolstoy grave has jagged edges from a hatchet (see Kiev Museum of Antiquities, Kievsky musei istoricheskih drevnostei, ill, 37, 38). In Central Asia, torques served as military signs of distinction.

Pectorals, another type of neck ornaments, consist of chains with a central inset or a mounting. Pectorals were frequently found on members of aristocracy or deity (.(Pugachenkova G. Art of Bactria, Iskusstvo Bactrii…p.189).

Neck adornments were mostly worn by members of high social standing; perhaps this is the reason that the museum collection does not have a lot of samples of neck ornaments.

Again, we can see that, just like the rings and earrings discussed in the previous chapters, neck ornaments are made under the influence of the following artistic and cultural movements: early Eastern, ancient Egyptian, and Hellenistic-Roman.

Some necklaces are similar to the gold jewelry of ancient Columbia, where residents of Sinu were famous for their skills in the art of jewelry, where temples contained gold idols, and the same idols (of a smaller scale) were used in neck jewelry (See L. Gomez, Columbian Gold, cat. 24467, 4243). Since only fragments from the Hecht collection’s necklace survived, we can only suggest that its original shape was a metal “collar,” similar to cat #5859 and 4108 (Gomez, cat.24467).

Necklaces consisted of stylized images of birds and schematic, flat and angular human figures (Columbian Gold, p. 24).

The first monuments of that region date both to the middle of 2d century BC and 7th BC Similar items are among the finds from Beth Shamash. This is another proof of analogies of forms and sorts of articles on different continents. Using the analogy method, it is possible to reconstruct lost types of jewelry based on the depictions of the items on relieves, sculptures, wall-paintings and etc.

Another direction –Early Egyptian – is represented by necklaces found in the anthropoid sarcophagus from Dir-el- Balach. They date to the 19-20 Dynasty period (12th-10th BC) (see “Jewelry from Ancient world”, Jerusalem, 1969).

Necklace, which consists of lotus-seeds shaped pendants, round and cylindrical cornelian beads (20x4 II.C.2e, cornelian 20x4; 2 cylindrical beads, cornelian 2x26) and horn-shaped gold pendants Ix16. Egyptians believed that lotus was a Solar sign, since the lotus flower rises and disappears with the Sun. The Nile’s Delta is shaped like a lotus. In India, lotus was a symbol of the Sun. Cornelian was known as stimulating, hot, active, energetic, expansive, passionate, masculine, color of valor, and symbol of strength, power, bravery, fire, flame, and heat.

The central pendant is a stylized depiction of a signet ring. The same pendant is found in the middle of the necklace . See analogies in Mesopotamia, Mari, 2 mill, ill.43, J-C, Margueron, London, 1965).

Some necklaces shows Hellenistic-Roman influence. Gold, emeralds. Like the one was found in the burial site of southern Bethlehem, 2d century. 13 gold pendants, 12 emerald pendants. The necklace has a wide circle of analogies: Hoffman H., Museum F. Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; Coche E. de la Ferte Antique Jewelry, Bernm 1962;Basserman E. Iordan, Dev Schmuck, Leipzig, 1909,fig.45;48 2-3 CE; Boglia L.Cat. delle Orefiore.Mus.Naz.Napoli, Roma, 1941, pl.XXXIII:2; XXXIV:3;

Goldschmuck der Romerzeit by Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Mainz, 1984, p.10; Objects of Adornments 2-3 CE, N.Y. 1984). Emerald is a precious stone that belongs to the A group, I class, which is the highest grade, still invaluable to this day. It has older names - “zamortod” (Sanskrit), “smargados” (Greek), and “izumrud” (Persian). The latter appeared in the XVI century. In the early times, emeralds were brought from the Arabian Desert. The necklace could belong to a member of a royal family. Emerald is a May stone that is supposed to bring love and success. It is a stone of Mercury, god and protector of trade and eloquence. The green color of the stone is a symbol of spring, fertility, youth, freshness, hope, memory. Green emeralds became fashionable after bloody wars; the price of emeralds on the world market rose many times. The shape of the stone and its weight allow us to conclude that the necklace was worn by a man, since women’s necklaces tend to be more fragile and sophisticated.


The archeological finds prove that bracelets were the most popular adornments of the ancient times. The most ancient of them go back to the Stone Age, when they were fashioned out of mammoth tusks. By the end of New Stone Age appeared bracelets made by drilling. In addition, in the Bronze an Iron Ages metal cast bracelets gained popularity.

Most of the bracelets were triangular, omega-shaped, or spiral, and were either massive or fragile; some had zoomorphic ends. The bracelets were either smooth or textured, some may have been made separately from the ends, and the ends were soldered on later. For the purposes of adornment and to give the objects some magical qualities, jewelers used incrustations and inlays. It is known that bracelets were worn by men and women, one or several at a time, both whole and open bracelets. Women in India wore bracelets when they were married, in Rome, the most popular bracelets were shaped as spirals, the ends always shaped as heads of reptiles, symbolizing young nubile forces. It is possible that women’s bracelets came from men’s military bracelets, which were not only adornments, but also protected wrists from wounds. There were also bracelets for ankles. Occasionally, a bracelet’s weight and size would suggest its owner – man or a woman. Large heavy bracelets were worn by men, light fragile ones – by women or children.

We know that the more massive bracelets may have been worn on shoulders and used in archery. Thus, we can conclude that bracelets were worn by men, women and children. Open-ended bracelets enjoyed popularity at all times; they may have been worn in pairs, or even three at a time, on arms, legs and sometimes on all limbs at the same time.

The material used to make the bracelets sometimes as well as their lack of embellishment, prove that their owner were poor. It is hard to define where they were produced and worn, since jewelry of this type was very popular in the ancient world. Among gifts mentioned in the Bible, bracelets take the first place as they are obviously the most ancient and popular kind of jewelry: “and we have brought the Lord’s offering, what each man found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets” (Numbers 31/50 p.144).

The gold and silver bracelets served as an equivalent of money, so their weight was standardized: the cost of items and their amount were frequently mentioned: “two or three gold bracelets,” “two wristlets weighing 10 shekels in gold” (Bereyshis - Genesis, 24/22 p.18).

Among the first gifts given to a bride to the matchmaking process were bracelets and earrings. In at the beginning of the XX century, this tradition continued among Jews in the East, Bukhara and Morocco (Rubens A. History of Jewish costumes, N.Y. 1967, ill. 105, p.84).

Bangles (foot bracelets) were intended for a man due to their weight. An interesting thought belongs to Frazer who suggests “that originally the primitive peoples believed that a ring on the arm or the finger served the purpose of keeping the soul and the body together “(Taboo and the Perils of the Soul.London, 1911, p.315), or to preserve the sinews and muscles from strain” (Crawley, Dress. E.R.E., vol.V, p.42).

On the topic of how the bracelets were worn, G.Chandra expresses the following opinion: “Bangles were worn by men, women and children on their wrists and arms. However, women sometimes wore wrist-clasps in place of bangles and men occasionally used armbands instead of bangles” (see Chandra G., Indo-Greek Jewelry. New Delhi, 1979, p.65).

The heavy bracelets belong to the next weight category (items weighing less than 200 gr.)may have been worn by men, since their diameter ranges between 8.6 t0 7.8 cm.

Bracelets with less weight were probably worn by women. They are smaller not only in weight and diameter and boast certain elegance, even in this plain assortment.


“So they came; both men and women; all who were a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet ring and armlets, all sorts of gold objects...” Exodus 35:22, p.78.

“Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand.” Genesis 41:42; p.38.

“And you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the King and sealed with the King’s ring cannot be revoked...” Esther, 8:8, p.427.

The above quotes prove that rings may have had different uses and functionality. Analyzing burial sites, scientists deduced that rings were worn on the left hand, on the index and middle fingers, and were mostly found in graves of females. Men wore signet rings on their right hands, and rings with protective disks – on their left (see Akishev, Kurgan-Issyk, Moscow, 1978, p. 27).

Therefore, rings can be classified as men’s and women’s. Wearing rings could also indicate gender and age of the wearer: for instance, a ring could be a bride’s first gift, either from the groom, or his relatives, or perhaps from the mother of the bride. A wedding ring served as a symbol, a promise of love and fidelity. This tradition may have originated in the Roman period, when Romans placed a metal ring on their chosen ones’ fingers; later, rings would be made out of gold. A custom among certain nomadic tribes required the man to tie his beloved’s ankles with aromatic straw; later the ties were made out of leather, and then stone.

We’ll look at collection of thirteen rings. Some of them are outside of the given catalog, since signets and rings with inscriptions belong to a separate area of research. More importantly, part of this collection has already been published (Raphael Giveon. Egyptian finger rings and seals from south of Gaza. Journal of the Tel-AvivUniversity. Institute of Archeology. vol. 4 # 1-2, 1977).

The rings that are discussed in this article carry zoomorphic and anthropomorphic images; some are grouped into action scenes, for instance, “Hercules Fighting a Lion”.

According to O. Dalton (who in the past served as curator and researcher of the widely known Oxus collection of the British Museum – see The Treasure of Oxus, London, 1964), shields made the early historic periods frequently had depictions of animals such as bull or gryphon. In our case, it is the scene in which Hercules fights a lion. Bronze rings of Ein-Samia (as attributed to the 6th century BC) have images of bull and gazelle. Another one, from the 1st AD, depicts an eagle.

One can see that hand jewelry of the Hecht collection follow several styles, namely, Egyptian, early Oriental, Hellenistic-Roman and local.

A seal ring for example with an image of a bull and a gazelle. These may be symbols of a family – a bull protecting a frail gazelle. The bull could be a symbol of fertility. Gazelle is a symbol of speed; in India, the animal was associated with air and wind. In the Semitic culture, gazelle was associated with attractiveness, especially for the beauty of its eyes.

Some ring resembles items from the Roman period; however, it carries an obvious oriental influence. Rings of this type became very popular in early medieval ages and later in Central Asia. Cornelian was widely used in Oriental jewelry, and the image of a bird depicted on the stone is similar to some examples of Achaemenian art. Elements of Achaemenian art, particularly, its iconography, have influenced artistic development of several young Oriental empires, such as the Parthian Empire, Bactria and later the Sassanid Empire.

Cornelian was linked to Mercury and Venus, was supposed to protect vision and bring happiness to a household. There are two different types of cornelian, male and female: the former has dark-brown color, the latter is transparent, pinkish-orange. Images of a bird on the surface of the stone may symbolize fertility, happiness and prosperity. Birds were known as symbols of celestial wisdom, fire and sun. The bird’s pose, as well as its location on the stone prove this theory and identify the ring as an item of men’s jewelry. It was probably worn on the little finger because of its small size.

“Hercules fighting a Lion.” Hercules, one of the gods and heroes of Roman mythology, was honored as a war hero, a victor, and god of personal gain. Merchants and warriors offered him one tenth of their income and spoils, which was spent on food for the crowds. Women were not permitted to participate in the cult of Hercules. Therefore, we can assume that the owner of this ring was a man, a military commander or a merchant. For soldiers, Hercules was a god of victory who won battles with monsters (monsters symbolized vices). Images of Hercules are frequently found on coins made by Antonines, Severs and rulers of the Gallic Empire.

Most of rings served as seals. They consist of a hoop made out of metal wires, to which a stone-seal, glass, or a protective shield is attached.

Seal rings were cast from a whole piece of metal, then an insert was made; sometimes an inscription was made on the shield.

Men’s rings can identified by their weight and shape, as well as by images of Heracles, eagle, or bull. The images changed over the years, reflecting cultural, historic, and political movements in the society.

Medallions and Pendants

Singular examples of pendants and medallions made out of various materials, such as bronze, gold and even lead.

Gold anthropomorphic pendants are the earliest in the chronological list of the items, as well as the gold pendant in the shape of a pomegranate . Finally, a medallion that depicts St. George fighting snakes is the last item in the series, dating 3d century AD.

A very distinctive because of its artistic properties, the gold medallion was purchased in Paris and depicts Emperor Titus’s daughter (according to its inscription).

Again, the following artistic and stylistic movements can be traced among the items early Eastern , Hellenistic-Roman ,Christian

The early Eastern tradition is represented by three items. Let us first look at anthropomorphic pendants

Gold figurine from the Canaanite sanctuary in the El-Hamah district near the junction of rivers Jordan and Jarmouk. Height 4.8, weight – 10.9.A miniature figurine of a goddess, one of its arms is stretched out to the left, the other one rests on the right hip, feet and breasts are extremely small. The hanging (fastening) hoop is broken.

Similar bronze items dating XVII century BC are discussed in the Celil’s Roth’s work “Jewish art,” Tel-Aviv, 1961: “This human type recalls the fine silver statuettes plated with gold found at Ras Shamra. The other instance is the find from Naharia.” The given pendant is similar to the bronze statuette of a goddess (12th BC) from the Museum in Nicosia (L’dossiers de l’archeologie, janvier , 1980,#40, p.51) or to a miniature pendant. We suggest that a female figure portrayed on the pendant is the mother goddess.

Another miniature pendant, was found in Jordan Valley. Height 38 mm, weight 0.45.

This statuette is more schematic; its height and weight suggest that the ornament was made specifically for a burial. The figurine resembles a mummy. Interestingly, it was found with a gold miniature hatchet, perhaps symbolizing the deceased’s profession .

Another example of the Early Eastern tradition is a pomegranate pendant, the popularity and symbolism in the Israeli art we have discussed earlier (see Romanoff. P., “Jewish symbols on ancient Jewish coins,” Pomegranate chapter).

Similar items are found among jewelry of Rodos (see P.Romanoff “Jewish symbols on ancient Jewish coins”).

Gold. Head of a ram. 6th century BC (?) – 4th century BC. Height 0.8.

A miniature head of a ram was clearly designed as a closure for a bracelet or a torque, similar to lion protomai on the gold chain from Tarente (see L’dossiers de l’archeologie #40, 1980, p.24). Analogous items were also found among the find of the Oxum treasure (see Dalton Treasure of Oxus, London, 1964). Dating the item back to IV century BC is proven by a similar example of Greek jewelry of Taman (see A.Greifenhagen.Schmuck der alten welt,Berlin, 1974, p.32).

As noted by Renata Rosenthal, craftsmen received orders to imitate the jewelry made in the Achaemenid court; one of the traditions was to decorate the items with heads of animals: “just as the Canaanites imitated Egyptian fashion in the Late Bronze Age. People now copied the “palace style” of Achaemenid Empire. A characteristic element of this style is the use of animal heads as decoration. The pieces of jewelry found in Israel consist mostly of earrings and anklets” (Jewelry in Ancient Time, N.Y. 1975). Among the jewelry found in Israel, we see earrings and bracelets made in this style. Our catalog already includes earrings of that type. Rosenthal mentions Ashdod finds (see Jewelry in Ancient Time, p. 59-60).

Jewelry items made in this style can be found in Cyprus museums, in collections dated the same period. Since the Persian Empire included Persia proper, Phoenicia, Palestine, Cyprus, Greece, Etruria and South Italy, such culture expansion was fairly possible as well.

Popularity of a ram’s image was already considered in our work. First, it is symbol of strength, energy, the sun virility. It is fairly widespread in jewelry of the Kushan art (see Tillya-tepe, Leningrad, 1985).

The Hellenistic-Roman period is represented in the Hecht collection by a medallion with an inscription.

Gold. Medallion. Height 1.1. Headof Ivlia Titi, daughter of Emperor Titus. Miniature head is decorated with a headdress and a necklace. Gold sheet, made by stamping.

The so-called Christian style is demonstrated by a pendant-amulet.

Gnostic amulet. Early Gnostics of the first centuries of Christian era attempted to reconcile Christianity with Judaism into one general school of faith. Height-4.5, weight-0.71, 3d century AD. Jerusalem, bronze. Inscription: IAW CABAWTIX’M. Image: St. George killing a monster, a lion is depicted below. On the reverse, the amulet is decorated with images of birds, scorpion, and snakes. This medallion may carry a Gnostic meaning. In Christian and Muslim myths, George is a warrior and martyr, whose name in folkloric tradition was strongly associated with pagan customs, spring cattle-breeding, agricultural cults, and dragon-slaying. Orthodox Christian hagiography describes St. George as a contemporary of the emperor Diocletian (284-305), native of the Eastern Minor Asia (Kappadoccia) or the neighboring Lebanon-Palestine lands than belonged to local nobility or distinguished military commanders. Persecuted as a Christian, St. George was beheaded, after which he was venerated as a martyr and named the heavenly patron of the Christian army. The spring holiday of St. George was celebrated on April 23 as a seasonal mark of the cattle-breeding calendar. In Turkey, this day marked the ritual of sending Sultan’s horses to pastures. In XIV century, the image of a horseman becomes an emblem of Moscow, and later the city’s national emblem (see Averintzev S.S., George, Mythological Dictionary. M. 1990, p. 145-146).

Images of birds, scorpions and snakes could signify the power over three worlds – celestial, earthy and underground. According to the Bible, a scorpion represents a whip, the crooked ends of which are similar to a scorpion’s claws, thus symbolizing different acts of persecution, punishments, and penalties, specifically for ideas and moral acts (New dictionary of foreign words, M., 1912, p. 29). A pair of birds could symbolize fertility, prosperity and wealth. According to other interpretations, a bird is a symbol of wisdom and fire. A snake symbolizes female reproductive force, water and rain. At the same time, it is a symbol that protects the dead from the evil spirits. Images of birds, scorpions and snakes could also be interpreted as symbols of the three forces of nature - fire, earth, and water. Analogous items have been found among the Greek and Roman jewelry articles (see Greek and Roman Jewelry, London, 1961). The abstract manner of depicting symbols assumes the amulet was made in the provinces, in an attempt to imitate the items worn by the aristocracy.

Since III AD, when the Sassanian Dynasty began its rule over the East with wide range of socio-cultural influences, the same scene of the Warrior fighting the Serpent or a Lion can be seen in different monuments. It was also present in the Islamic period (see the Gold horseman figurine (Z-548), Eastern Iran from the Hermitage collection, Yuvelirnye izdeliya Vostoka, 1984).

Beaded necklace (71 beads).

Length -55.5 cm. Sumer, 3 mill. BC, 35 beads of lapis lazuli and 36 beads of red agate.

Lapis lazuli was used in making beads and seals. This beautiful stone was prized by the earliest inhabitants of India, Persia and Mesopotamia (p.317, Amulets and Superstitions). Lapis Lazuli is the stone of heaven, capacity, ability, and divine favor.

Red agate- “blood agate” -- was known as protection against large spiders and scorpions (p.306, Amulets….- Agate(red)- protection against the bites of snakes and other insects, and against lightning and thunder, calm, peace).Agates are the most ancient stones used for making beads. It is one of most popular stones in the East, just as lapis lazuli.

Number 71 is sacred and is represented as 70 + 1 – number 1 represented god. Moses said, “Hear o, Israel, the Lord our God (is) One”(,4; Mark xii.29).Seventy appears to have been used, like 40, as a round or general number, and many instances of its use can be found in the Bible “after these things the Lord appointed another 70 also (Luke x.1).

Clothes Adornments

This type of jewelry can be divided into two groups: ones worn on the items of clothing, and the ones sewn onto them. The first group included various pins and clasps. Gold pins, the first of which is made to resemble an Ionic column, the other – an unusual cupola. Most of these articles are made out of bronze; two medallions are made out of lead. Techniques used include casting and engraving.

The articles made of gold illustrate a more complex technique, such as inlay, granulation, stamping, insets; as a result, they appear more sophisticated. In general, these items reflect the influence of Early Eastern, Hellenistic and Roman-Byzantine art.


Two types of fibulae: one that resembles an arbalest (or a bow) and another that is shaped like a bent arm or a head... The size of the items defined when and how they were worn. Fibula is a type of fastening for a man’s cloak, and its bow-shaped design is chosen on purpose – a bow, or an arbalest, is one of the oldest weapons known to men.

The most vivid example is bronze fibulae from Bethlehem, I century BC. Height – 2.15, length – 5.7. Judging by the length of the fibula and traces of gold on the bronze, it belonged to a youth of a middle military ranking. It is known that military hierarchy was recognized by the quality of the materials used in making belts for the warriors.

Another type of fibulas is shaped like a bent arm, resembling a bow. The arm is decorated with bracelets placed on its shoulder and forearm. The arm ends in a wrist and hand with bent fingers; the other end of the fibula is a human figure or a human head, or occasionally, a head of an animal.

Similar fibulae can be seen among the Urartian jewelry (cat. 23, 24, bronze and gold items) that belong to the same period. We would like to point out that the jewelry was wide-spread; its popularity is based on a mutual influence of ancient cultures. “O.W. Muscarel and Ogun have proposed three groups of Urartian fibulae: those following a Phrygian pattern, those with an Anatolian pattern and original Urartian types. According to Ogun, who studied some of hundred Urartian fibulae dispersed through museums in Turkey, most of latter also show a Phrygian influence.” In Israelite period- 7th BC. Bent fibulae decorated with human images. Partly covered with green patina . Miniature fibulas probably belonged to boys or teenagers or decorated with images of two animals with human heads (in the shape of a Sphinx).


Two types of pins: decorated and plain, for instance . Pins of that type were known in Urartu (Urartu, a MetalworkCenter in the first mill.BCE”, by R. Merhaw, Israel, 1990, кат.№21). The book mentions a female figurine as an example of how these pins were worn.

Some of the pins could be used as needles. Openings for a thread are seen, on one Similar items are found among the Urartian articles (see cat.3, p.326)

Fibulae and the Urartian pins prove that these items were highly popular among different layers of society. We must also mention two gold pins of significant artistic value.

Pin from Jerusalem (old city), II century BC. The top part of the pin is shaped like the top of an Ionic column. This detail resembles top parts of the original columns found by prof. N. Avigad during his excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old city in Jerusalem. Below the column, the pin has an ornament shaped as a fruit made of white glass, gold frame and topped with a garnet. The pin itself is made out of silver. The materials are expensive, and the composition is complex enough to suggest that the owner of the pin was wealthy. Several techniques are used, such as inlays, faux granulation, and sheet gold. The scroll-like Ionic volutes are not incidental. The owner of the pin could be a wife of a temple cleric. It is possible that the top part, shaped as a sphere on top of a lotus flower, was also symbolic.

Similar pins are present in the later period of the Roman Empire; it is evident from the finds of the III century (see cast gold pin, ill 66 in “Roman Crafts” by Donald Strong, N.Y., 1976), where an Ionic column serves as a base for the figure of a goddess, possibly Aphrodite.

The second pin is intended for a headdress or a hairdo. Only the top part survived.

Gold, Pearls. Height- 5.0, weight-5.450, Phoenician, bought in Paris, at “Mouseon F. Antonovic.” IIBC, Phoenician gold ornament, inlaid with pearls and decorated with a flower. This ornament was made using complex techniques, such as partitioned incrustation, which resembles scales or a certain kinds of hairdos, which allows us to consider this one of the most significant examples.

The next two items represent another type of clothes’ adornments.

The medallion depicts an eagle with spread wings, an inscription is located underneath the image. Stylized grapes adorn the back of the frame. Such medallions could have been made out of gold, since sometimes inexpensive metals were used to make copies of valuable objects of art. The connection between the Mediterranean of the Achaemenian era and the finds of the treasure of Oxus is evident. See, for example, the coins of Evagoras, the pearl frame from Cyprus, or gold plaques, cat.25. The image of an eagle, in its stylized treatment and heraldic attitude, is purely oriental (p.13-14 Dalton O.).

Another medallion depicts Ares on the left, Athena on the right, an image of an eagle above her.

This medallion possibly had a frame just like the first item . Both medallions are men’s clothes ornaments. Eagle as a power symbol and embodiment of strength is on the first medallion and god of war together with the goddess of wisdom and sciences, born out of Zeus’s head complete with gold armor (her iconography attributes are helmet, spear, shield, owl or olive branch in hands) are depicted on the second medallion. This scene could symbolize the Roman power or suggest wise wars.

Chronologically earliest item is a fragment of bronze belt (cast, stamping) that bears the image of a winged sphinx. Urartu. Height- 8 cm, Width – 10 cm, Near East, 860-650 BC (see “Urartu” album, cat. 75, 76, p. 282). Fragment from the right-hand end of (probably) bronze belt, presumably fixed to leather in the ancient world, with a winged sphinx in repousee work with chasing. The motif is of Near Eastern origin and is firmly rendered (from letter to Mr.Antonovich in Paris,W.Laumbert. The University of Birmingham.

Among the many items we considered, some differ significantly from the others. In spite of that, we can still expose several common features.

Firstly, we suggest the following in regards to the integral cultural space of the ancient world. Art within it develops according to rules of syncretism and is part of the ritual-social consciousness. It reflects the social-craft commission of cults and other spheres of human activity. At the same time, its spiritual content expressed throughout symbolic-semantics aspects gives artistic quality to the items. By these common regularities jewelry articles from distinct cultural regions are close and have variety analogies.

Figurine of a bull. Gold. Height -14 mm. Length -18 mm. Weight-0.10 gr. Ur in Chaldea, 2400 BC. A miniature of a kneeling bull, head turned to the side, has two horns and two ears are sticking out. This item was found in bituminous soil and is filled with it. An ornamental ribbon is traced along the back. A vertical gap is cut through the body. Orange patina and some fractures in the metal. This item was found and brought to Europe by a Christian family from Iraq. According to family tradition, it was acquired in the region of Ur after the First World War. This item could be a pendant, but other examples of Egyptian art suggest that it could be a top part of a ring (see ”L’dossiers de l’archeologie,” №40,1980, p.39, 40), or a decorative element for a fibula. According to the Sysford Scheme of Symbolism, by P. Figesten (“The Eclipse of Symbolism, University of SouthCalifornia, 1970, p.132), here we deal with a symbolic depiction of Osiris, the key Egyptian deity, son of Earth and Heaven, who represented sunlight and goodness. Another reason to suggest that this miniature served as a top element of a ring is a similar item depicting a ram (see cat. .№4 “Objects of Adornment” N.Y., 1984 electrum, Syria, II mill. ВС). There is another theory regarding the bull miniature, made by Wooley (1934, p.375), as well as the attribution made in the collection’s catalog (see “Jewelry Through 7000 Years,” 1976, p.38): “Large animal-shaped pendants could be found in royal burial sites, where they were used as fastenings.”

In our case, the vertical gap on the body of the figurine could be made later; we suggest that in this particular case, is much more like to have been a top decoration of a ring, or a signet ring.

Integral space of the ancient world was unified despite continents or connections. It was similar to a life of a human being, who develops his understanding of the surrounding world, learns to walk and speak at a certain age no matter where he was born. Just as every human child is an individual, every ancient culture developed according to a different chronological schedule. That is where the difference between cultures becomes visible. However, many development milestones are similar and unavoidable; this results in a phenomenon of manmade art and its development. Analogies assist in reconstructing lost antiquities and cultural property artifacts, as well the connection between time periods and historical eras.

Glass Adornments

The glass adornments is limited to bracelets and pendants made in the style we have discussed in the previous chapters. Artistic styles and traditions used in making these glass objects are similar to the ones used in creating the metal jewelry represented in the collection. First and foremost, we see the Early Eastern and Hellenistic-Roman styles, supplemented by local flavor, such as menorah, shofar, and lulav.

The first art objects made of glass were discovered among the finds of ancient Egypt of the IV mill. BC. These items included beaded necklaces and amulets of colored glass. Other glass pieces were found on the territory of Iraq, which proves that the art of glass jewelry making existed in Mesopotamia in the XXVI century BC (Glass in Antiquity, by F. Neuburg, London, 1949, p.1). For millenniums, Egypt was the only country where glass was manufactured (“Glass in Antiquity” by Ruth Hurst Vose, London, 1980, p.41).

Early glassmakers borrowed casting techniques from figure-casters; they placed glass into special open molds, or templates, that were used by potters and faience makers. This allowed to process only one side of the object. Powdered or molten glass was pressed into an open mould, with the pattern forming on the inside (“Glass in Antiquity” by Ruth Hurst Vose, London, 1980, p.41).

In the previously referenced work “Glass Antiquity,” the detailed chapter “Palestine and Jews” (p.31-54) is dedicated to glass production in Israel. The author states the opinions “that the Jews played an active part in the development of the Syrian glass industry are no more conjunctive. We know it from literature, from historical documents and above all, from finds of glass in Palestine” (“Glass in Antiquity..,” p.31). The author researched the collection of the RockefellerMuseum; many of these items are similar to the HechtMuseum’s collection. Neuburg counts four stages of the Old Israel glass industry:

1. The first phase of development embraces the period from 100 BC to 100 AD.

2. The second period of development, in the3d-4th AD.

3. The third period of development, the 4th AD, the use of glass multiplied and the shapes followed suit.

4. The character of the 4th period of development, in the 4th and 5th centuries (Glass in Antiquity.., p.31).

The Hecht collection includes all the above-mentioned periods; however, we cannot be sure that all the items were manufactured on the territory of Israel. To prove that, a comprehensive chemical analysis of the glass would have to be performed.

Most of the items are made of dark-colored glass; occasionally, yellow, blue and green glass is used. “Emerald- green glass appears to have exercised a fascination over the peoples of Antiquity” (Ibid, p.32). According to Heraclius, the “vitrum judaicum”- Jewish glass- is made using the following method: “Take a grossinum sapphire and then some marschaum, which is beaten on the anvil with a hot iron (the so-called hammer-blow); take a third thereof and mix with the grossinum and with lead- that is, Jewish glass” (“Glass in Antiquity.. ,” p.37).

Glass manufacturing on the territory of Israel existed for a long time and was an important part of the artistic heritage. Firstly, we must mention various vases, amphorae and beaded necklaces – the early finds near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. These included “One is lazuli-blue, the other- malachite-green… and yellow glass too” (Ibid, p.38).

It is known that special attitude existed towards objects made of white glass; none of those are present in the Hecht collection.

There were several centers that manufactured glass, among those Rishon near Herzliah, Tiberius, and Jerusalem. It is possible that the bracelets and medallions from the Hecht collection were not only purchased, but also produced in Jerusalem. This theory is supported by archeological excavations of Ramat-Rahel between Jerusalem and Beth-Lehem (Bulletin of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society, Jerusalem, 1934-35).

According to the suggested chronology, blue glass articles manufacturing dates back to the so-called second and fourth periods, i.e., III -IV AD and IV-V AD. The same chronological boundaries are applied to the glass articles in our collection.

Among other techniques, Neuburg states the following: “The countries of the Mediterranean littoral produced soda-glass, and it is natural that this method of decorating glass should have been discovered, practiced and developed here”(Glass in Antiquity.. p.47).

Themes and subjects of articles are concentrated around “the time of Maccabees, the era of national revival, one frequently finds the representation of objects of a national symbolical Character, and these too are naturalistically rendered as, for example, safety as sea (an anchor). Good Fortune and Plenty (cornucopia). Protection (a shield). Fertility and Prosperity (Ears of corn and flowers). Victory (palm-leaf), etc.” (Glass..p.49).


Glass bracelets includes miniature items made out of dark or black glass. Black glass is a special material, which “from the second to the first century BC and later was obtained from iron oxide. It is worth nothing that an excess of any oxide will color glass so deeply that it look black. Examples of black glass during the ancient period are comparatively rare, and presumably it was not generally popular” (Glass, London, 1980, p.33). All of these items are made by casting in ready-made molds. All items were purchased in Israel.

Chest Adornments (Medallions)

Blue and yellow glass was especially popular among the old world glassmakers. The desired hue was achieved by adding metal oxides of cobalt and copper. One of the earliest examples of cobalt-enhanced glass comes from Iridu, Mesopotamia (2000 BC). We suggest that cobalt was brought over from Persia or European countries bordering on Mediterranean (“Glass,” p.30).

The Romans continued to use copper and cobalt; blue color could be produced by iron in its ferrous state. Yellow glass “has been produced by glassmakers since antiquity. Early glassmakers used iron in its ferric state to produce yellow color. Ancient yellow was probably made opaque by the use of antimony” (“Glass…,” p.33). We would like to note the frequent use of Judaic symbols, such as menorah, shofar and lulav.

Yellowish colored glass medallion depicting and animal on the left, images of the moon and stars are placed above.

Another glass medallion depicting a horseman with a sword in his left hand , a kneeling figure is on the right. Above the rider is a Greek inscription.

Amulet-pendant depicting a sitting figurine, grain is placed in front of the figure. Depiction of sacrificing Isaac (see #102, “Glass in Antiquity”).

Judaic medallion made of yellow glass decorated with a Menorah, Shofar, Lulav (see #103, 101, 99 in “Glass in Antiquity”).

Judaic medallion made of blue glass decorated with a Menorah, Shofar, Lulav (see #103 in “Glass in Antiquity”).

Medallion decorated with a Menorah (see #103 in “Glass”).

“Symbolical representations were stamped on them in relief. These little pieces deserve mention only because they often have stamped on the Seven-branched candlestick- Menorah. They enjoyed a wide distribution, and those with this particular symbol have been found not only in Palestine, but also in Rhodes, Cyprus and even in Yugoslavia (Stobi) (“Glass in Antiquity..,” p.54).

Pendants- Amulets

These items are grouped by type: shaped as miniature vessels, made using casting or blowing technique.

Amulet. Height-22 mm, 1st BC, Gaza. Turquoise colored bead or pendant in the shape of the head of God Bess. Horizontal perforation. In Egyptian mythology, Bess is the deity responsible for protecting men from natural disasters, a patron of families. Egyptians believed that Bess can banish evil spirits and help in childbirth. Thus, we can suggest that the given amulet belonged to a married woman. Similar amulets were found in the Front Asia and Mediterranean, Central Asia, Ural region, and Siberia.

Dark purple amulet in the shape of a Negro head. Similar vessels were popular in the I, II, III, IV centuries AD (see #52, 53, 54, 55, 56 in “Glass in Antiquity”).

Roman period 1st-2d centuries Bethlehem. Double-headed “Janus,” yellow glass. Janus is an Old Italian deity, at first of light and sun, later a patron of any deed or endeavor, protector of childbirth, inventor of agriculture, ship-building and coinage. He was also a patron of entrances to houses and social relations. Janus could be one of transformations of God Bess.

Roman period, bought in Jerusalem. Green glass pendant. Flat back. The vessel is shaped as a cluster of grapes of Sidon (see #51, II-III AD in “Glass in Antiquity”). “The grapes appear for the first time on the bronze coins of the First and Second Revolts in the form of vine-leaf, on the silver denary, and on some of bronze coins of the Second Revolt in the form of clusters of grapes”(“Jewish symbols on ancient Jewish coins. Philadelphia, p.43-45).

The vine and grapes motif is frequently found on sacred vessels in the sanctuary. It is one of symbols of Israel. In early times grape clusters signified blessing and fertility.

Roman period, Bethlehem. Miniature jug, blue and yellow colors. Single handle and pointed base (see #104 in “Glass..).

Beaded Necklaces

. A string of nineteen multicolored (blue, yellow, black, green, orange, and brown) beads.

Beads of different scales and in forms with decorations: zigzags, points. (Analogies see in 114 d, pl.XXXI-XXXII) “The ornament was then pressed into the bead in its soft state by means of a stamp “(Glass from the Corning Museum of the Glass, N.Y., 1958)

Glass beads play a vital, though seldom dramatic, role throughout history. During several periods, particularly in the Far East, they are the only indications of glassblowing and, in the case of China, provide the earliest recognized link between glass makers.

Among the Israel glass industry centers, Neuburg mentions Beth-Sharim (Sheikh Abreiq) near Nazareth and Sussite (Hypos) on the sea of Tiberius (“Glass in Antiquity, p.52). “Beads were also pinched off from a glass tube, decorated and ground at either end. Alternatively, the whole tube was decorated and the beads then nipped off” (“Glass in..).

Articles of Bone

Some items of jewelry made out of bone, primarily amulets-pendants and hairpins. There are a few articles made out of ivory (dental matter of African and Indian elephants’ tusks, exported from those regions) Chronologically, these items date back to the same period as the above-mentioned articles of stone (from late bronze to the Roman period). Geographically, the articles of bone were found in the same locations as the stone articles: Gaza, Beth-Lechem, and Jerusalem. Since objects made out of ivory have always been highly valuable, we will start our discussion with these items.

Ivory Jewelry

Amulet. Ivory. Height -2 cm.Gaza. Egypt. 18-19 Dynasties. The amulet consists of two parts: animal form and a human form. The lower part of both figurines is broken off and missing. “Lioness-Goddess “Sekhmet” (Sokhmet) next to it “Hathor.” It is known that Sekhmet the Mighty was the Goddess and deity of the scorching sun. The lioness, which is seen near the figurine, is the sacred animal of Sekhmet .Occasionally, Sekhmet was pictured as a woman with a head of a lioness. Using her magic powers, Sekhmet was said to be able to kill a human being or send diseases. At the same time, she was a healer goddess. She was a patron of doctors, who were considered her worshippers. She was identified with many goddesses-lionesses, sometimes with Astarte (see Dictionary of Mythology, Mifologicheskii slovar’, p.486) or Hathor – the goddess of Heaven (the celestial cow who gave birth to the sun was depicted as a woman with horns or cow’s ears). Hathor was worshipped in Sinai (see Dictionary of Mythology, Mifologicheskii slovar’, p.571).

Similar items are found among ivory jewelry mentioned in the Georgina Herrmann’s work: “A lion-head represented frontally, seated to the left on a lotus flower.” In the same work the author mentions many ivory items found in Samaria (a joint Harvard-Hebrew University Palestine Exploration Fund expedition, working at Samaria in 1932 and 1933, discovered more than 500 fragments of ivory) that proves the presence of an ivory studio in that region.

The majority of the above-mentioned finds are “possibly remains of an Israelite palace but confused with later Neo-Babylonian and Hellenistic material.”

Some items were probably made by Egyptian craftsmen since they definitely belong to the Egyptian XIII-XIX Dynasties. “Ivory spans and unites the limits of the ancient world almost more than any other substance” (Herrmann Georgina. Ivories. London).

Head of Ibex. Ivory. Height- 0.9 cm. Iron Age or Late Bronze. A very small head of Ibex with ring. Judging by the hoop-shaped end, this is a pendant; the graphic representation is schematic.

Bone Articles

A miniature head with a headdress. Head perforated, flat base. The miniature figurine served possibly as a pendant.,

Another pendant with six circles, perforated with four holes. Part of flat base is missing. Its shape and decoration resemble dice.

Tell Abby Hawan Exc; Str. II #56. Height-0.055 mm. Graeco-Persian. Pendant decorated with four rows of six hoops each.

Carved hairpin, depicts a head of a woman with a headdress (hairdo).

The two hairpins listed above were found together, which testifies to both items being of the same age and belonging to the same woman. If the first pin decorated with a head of a female could be for festive occasions, the second plain one, was used for more casual days.

Bone. Shuafat North of Jericho. Height -9.3 cm. 2d century. Miniature head with a hairdo. Elongated neck, upper body is greenish-colored. The upper part of the figurine is in good condition.

Articles of Stone

This small group of jewelry items made of various kinds of stone and even bituminous coal includes miniature pendants, beads and a necklace .

Carnelian was the most popular among other stones, followed by agate, quartz and others, for instance, dark hard stone or dark colored stone. Most of these stones belong to the quartz group – cornelian, agate, and quartz itself. Several researchers have suggested that the name quartz comes from the transformed German term “govars”- the term for a mountain top used by miners (see Samsonov Y, Turinge A., Gems of the USSR, Moscow, 1984, p.38). By its classifications, the quartz group belongs to the B category, the second category of precious and semi-precious stones. Quartz as a semi-precious stone can be polished, treated and processed to be used in jewelry-making.

Carnelian, as mentioned earlier, was associated with Mercury and Venus. The stone was thought to have vision-protective powers and was considered a good luck charm for homes. Other sources name carnelian as the July stone. Ancient legends frequently mention carnelian as the stone that heals wounds and repairs broken skin. Its healing properties were ignored for a long time. However, it has been proven that carnelian’s thin fibers capture and hold tiniest particles of radio-active materials. Currently, carnelian is successfully used by medical workers in several European countries (see Abarchuk S., American Panorama, Amerikanskya panorama, 1992).

Chronologically, the stone items of the Hecht collection include period from the II mill BC to the first centuries of the I mill. (the late Hellenistic or early Roman periods). Early Eastern and Hellenistic-Roman influences prevail in the above-discussed objects of art.


Amulets of fine stone were used from the prehistoric days onwards. Of the early ones, the bull’s head is the commonest, made of carnelian, hematite or glazed quartz (see “Arts and crafts of Ancient Egypt”, London, 1910). In the Hecht collection’s amulets, the Early Oriental influence prevails. The other one, Hellenistic-Roman, is viewed only in one item with the Aphrodite image

Let us discuss amulets-pendants, followed by the fragments of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic pendant.

Late Bronze. Agate (black - courage, boldness, victory in games, prosperity). Agates with unusual markings on them were highly valuable. Red - calm, peace, protection against snakebites, scorpions, and other insects, and against lightning and thunder. An eye and brow contours are scratched on the stone.

Eye. Carnelian (Friendship, a cure for depression and pessimism) Height-1.8 c.Gaza.Late Bronze. The amulet may have been decorated with an inset.

The figurine of mentioned above deity is highly decorative. Only certain recognizable features of the home protector allow us to classify the amulet as the anthropomorphous depiction.

Miniature head of a man. Facial features and a large nose are briefly outlined.

Small figurine of Aphrodite (Goddess of the Moon - In Chaldea the Great Goddess, Magna Dea, who was goddess of the Moon, was worshipped in the form of a sacred black stone - Esther Harding, “Woman‘s mysteries, London, p.41). Depicts a woman holding her head with both hands. Legs are missing. Both her face and the other features are sketched. The goddess is recognizable by her canonized pose.

Zoomorphic Amulets

Bead-amulet. Dark hard stone. Height-1.1 cm. Gaza. Late bronze or Iron Age. Perforated bead in the shape of a beetle. Fine work.

Bird-shaped pendant-amulet. Height -9 mm. Bitimous coal. Sumer. 2d mill. BCE.

Amulet in the shape of a dove. Height - 0.95 cm. Middle BronzeI. Compare with some objects from Naharia-Temple. Head of the dove is stylized, back is decorated by engravings.

doves were associated with Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, in the Near East, and with the cult of Astarte in Finikia. In Greece, doves were considered symbols of Aphrodite. It is also a well-known emblem of peace.

Necklace and Bead

Necklace. Quartz. Length -54.8 cm, MiddleBronzeI. Length -22 mm-13 mm. The necklace consists of thirty three quartz beads: thirty one white and brown biconical beads (diameter -11 -10mm), and two black and white flat beads (21, 5 mm -19 mm, height-20.0-21 mm). Found in a tomb near Beth-Lechem together with H-819, H-835

Bead, Stone. Height -20 mm. Late Bronze. Tel Beth Mirsim. Oval, unfinished bead of dark colored stone. The bead could belong to a stone workshop.

Necklace consists of seventy one beads. Shumer. III mill. BC. Length – 55.5. Thirty five beads are lapis-lasuli, thirty six beads are red agate. In Mesopotamia, India and Persia (Iran), Lapis-lasuli was used to manufacture not only beads, but also sealing stamps.

Lapis-lazuli was considered the symbol of sky, success. Red agate (blood-red) protected against large spiders and scorpions (see “Amulets and Superstitions,” p. 306). In the East, both agate and lapis-lazuli have traditionally been used to make necklaces since the ancient times. Number 71 is sacred and is represented as 70 + 1 – number 1 represented god. Moses said, “Hear o, Israel, the Lord our God (is) One”(,4; Mark xii.29). Seventy appears to have been used, like 40, as a round or general number, and many instances of its use can be found in the Bible “after these things the Lord appointed another 70 also (Luke x.1).



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    • eneva profile image

      eneva 5 years ago

      Glad to hear that!

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      Marco Piazzalunga 5 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

      Hello eneva,

      your hub is really impressive for the amount of information it offers, both for experts and for the common people.

      I am very pleased that you have insisted on the ancient history of jewelry because I am passionate about jewelry glass of antiquity.

      In my creations I always try to maintain a link with the past more or less recent, and I hope not only to succeed but also the people watching my work will appreciate my effort.

      Voted Up and beautiful!

      Thank you for sharing these "precious" information.

    • eneva profile image

      eneva 5 years ago

      and now you can buy my book "Ancient Jewelry of the Middle East",Boston2012

    • eneva profile image

      eneva 5 years ago