No other ancient culture has been as well-studied as that of Predynastic and Dynastic Egypt, especially the personal adornment of their upper class women and men. Well-developed technologies of working stone, metal, faience, glass, and fibers, all under the control of dynastic elites, contributed to a precision and uniformity of jewelry and dress. Living in a hot, dry climate, men wore linen kilts, women thin, tight sheath dresses of the same fiber, some pleated, and often with straps that covered the breasts. For health and comfort, both sexes usually shaved their heads, using wigs to prevent sunstroke (Watterson 1991). Depictions of ancient Egyptians on paintings, reliefs and statuary invariably showed them wearing broadcollars, almost an essential form of dress. The majority of broadcollars were made of cylindrical and/or disk beads of faience, a self-glazing, thixotropic ceramic that was both a luxury and a magical product for the elite (Friedman 1998).
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Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. His recent book, The Photography of Personal Adornment, covers forty plus years of shooting jewelry, clothing and events related to wearable art, both in and out of the Ornament studio. Recently he has been teaching one-on-one photography lessons at our office, as well as teaching workshops on bamboo jewelry. In this issue Liu writes about ancient Egyptian broadcollars, usually made of faience beads, how they were made and extant examples of this beautiful item of dress, including modern replicas by artist Carol Strick.