Penn Museum Middle East Galleries Volume 40.4

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BRICK FOOTPRINT, circa 2100 - 2000 B.C. This print of a human foot was discovered on an ancient mud brick used in construction at the royal city of Ur (modern-day Iraq), and is now placed at the entrance to the Penn Museum’s Middle East Galleries.  All photographs courtesy of the Penn Museum.   QUEEN PUABI NECKLACE of gold and lapis lazuli with central floral design, 2450 B.C. 

BRICK FOOTPRINT, circa 2100 - 2000 B.C. This print of a human foot was discovered on an ancient mud brick used in construction at the royal city of Ur (modern-day Iraq), and is now placed at the entrance to the Penn Museum’s Middle East Galleries. All photographs courtesy of the Penn Museum. 
QUEEN PUABI NECKLACE of gold and lapis lazuli with central floral design, 2450 B.C. 

It starts with a single footprint. Impressed some four thousand years ago by an anonymous Sumerian into a mud brick in the royal city of Ur, and recovered there a century ago, this mark makes a simple declaration, but one that lies at the heart of all human culture: “I was here.” The first object the visitor encounters upon entering, it is an apt beginning to the story that unfolds across the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s newly renovated and expanded Middle East Galleries, which opened to the public on April 21.

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Top to bottom, left to right: RAM IN A THICKET STATUETTE of gold, lapis lazuli, copper, shell, red limestone, and bitumen, one of a pair found in the “Great Death Pit,” in the royal city of Ur, modern-day Iraq. ANIMAL GAME BOARD of twelve engraved shell plaques of lapis lazuli, limestone and shell. FOOTED BOWLS for eating and drinking, Hissar, Iran, circa 4500 - 4000 B.C. QUEEN PUABI GOLD HAIR COMB with seven finials in the shape of eight-petal blossoms, 2450 B.C. LUNATE EARRINGS of hammered gold, worn by Queen Puabi, 2450 B.C. BEADS of largely agate, gold and single carnelian bead, found in the “Warrior’s Grave,” Akkadian period, circa 2250 B.C.

      Through some twelve hundred objects—more than half of which have never before been on display—this suite of three spacious, well-lit galleries chronicles no less than the emergence of human civilization across millennia, from the earliest villages and towns to increasingly complex urban settlements that paved the way for the modern metropolis. “These galleries tell you a story about how ancient peoples changed their way of life to stay in the same place all year round,” says museum director Julian Siggers. “This led to the formation of the world’s first cities, in ancient Mesopotamia. Urbanization dramatically speeds up innovation and introduced many of the issues—good and bad—that are still with us today. So this story really resonates with all of us because it is our story.”

The artifacts come from more than two dozen excavations by Penn archaeologists in the so-called Fertile Crescent (mostly in modern-day Iraq and Iran) that revolutionized our understanding of the ancient world. Perhaps the most dramatic discoveries sprang from the joint Penn/British Museum excavations of the Royal Tombs at Ur led by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and 1930s. These include the famous Ram in the Thicket statuette of gold, silver and lapis; a silver boat-shaped lyre decorated with a stag; and the centerpiece of the museum’s Middle East collection, Queen Puabi’s headdress and jewels.

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH SUNDAY MAGAZINE, September 28, 1930, newspaper article about Royal Tombs of Ur discoveries: “What Science Has Discovered About the Personal Adornment of Chaldean Ladies.” 

      In January 1928 Woolley sent a breathless telegram (in Latin, for secrecy) to Philadelphia. Translated, it reads: “I found the intact tomb, stone built and vaulted over with bricks of Queen Shubad [Puabi] adorned with a dress in which gems, flowers, crowns and animal figures are woven. Tomb magnificent with jewels and golden cups.” This royal burial chamber, dated to around 2450 B.C., contained not just the body of the bejeweled queen, which was laid out on a wooden bier, but also those of her attendants—six men and sixty-eight women who, as reward for their service, were bludgeoned to death and buried with their queen, along with a trove of royal artifacts, all remarkably well preserved.

Queen Puabi’s headdress is truly spectacular to behold. It includes more than twelve meters of gold ribbon, which was wound around her voluminous hair (think Princess Leia in Star Wars). Above this she wore three wreaths composed of strands of carnelian and lapis beads and festooned with gold leaves. Each leaf is a single piece of gold hammered into shape and folded at one end into two loops that attach the leaf to the strands and the strands to one another. The most ornate wreath features two- and three-pointed willow leaves tipped with carnelian beads, and flowers with petals of lapis and shell. A frontlet joins three strands of lapis and carnelian with twenty gold rings. Atop it all, a large gold comb erupts into an array of star-shaped flowers. A pair of boat-shaped gold earrings completes the ensemble.

According to Jane Hickman, a specialist in ancient jewelry and editor of the museum’s Expedition magazine, Queen Puabi had on more than twelve pounds of ornamentation when she was discovered. “The hair comb itself weighs a pound!” Hickman and her colleague, collection keeper Katy Blanchard, note that all of the materials used in the headdress had to be imported from neighboring regions—the gold from present-day Afghanistan or Syria, the lapis from Badakhshan in Afghanistan, the carnelian from the Indus Valley—indicating the enormous wealth of the queen, as well as the far-flung trade networks that had already developed at this early stage of civilization.

QUEEN PUABI REGALIA of headdress, beaded cape and jewelry of gold, lapis lazuli and carnelian, discovered on the queen’s body in her tomb at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, circa 2450 B.C. Puabi was wearing about five pounds of jewelry, mostly gold, on her head and about seven and a half pounds of jewelry, mostly semiprecious stone beads, on her body. Photograph by Bruce White.

      A modern proverb admonishes us that “you can’t take it with you,” but the ancients seem to have had other ideas. Although much is unknown about Sumerian burial rites and beliefs, the fact that people of importance were buried with their treasures, and warriors with their weapons, suggests a belief that these objects would be of further use to their owners. Blanchard notes that Queen Puabi’s diadem is “more correctly a series of necklaces.” One possible explanation is that these earthly treasures were intended to serve as currency in the afterworld. “Maybe in every level of the underworld she’s handing over a necklace to make it through to the next place,” says Blanchard. “So she took it with her as payment. These are questions we still have.”

Indeed, nearly a century after they were unearthed, these treasures still have many secrets to divulge, and research on the collection is ongoing. Interactive kiosks in the galleries utilize digital technology to allow visitors to take a deeper dive into some of these topics of interest, including what the motifs on ornaments and vessels tell us about the flora, fauna and agricultural practices of the region, many of which continue in various forms today.

Later excavations at sites such as Rayy, near present-day Tehran, yielded artifacts from the Islamic period, which fill much of the third gallery. These include many rare manuscripts such as an illustrated copy of the Khamsa of the twelfth-century Persian poet Nizami and an illuminated Qur’an, as well as everyday objects such as cooking vessels and textiles from the Ottoman period.

The legacy of Near Eastern archaeology cannot be separated from the area’s more recent history and the often troubled relationships between its modern-day inhabitants and the West. “We can’t open galleries from this region of the world without noting that the deep material, human and cultural heritage of the region is also under attack,” says Siggers. With this in mind, the Penn Museum has launched a Global Guides initiative with funding from the Barra Foundation. Through this program, the first of its kind in the nation, the museum has hired as tour guides immigrants from Iraq and Syria. These men and women will, according to associate curator Stephen Tinney, “pair the history of ancient Mesopotamia and surroundings with stories drawn from their own unique experiences growing up in the Middle East,” giving visitors a broader perspective on the region’s long history of continuity and conflict.

Fostering such connections between ancient and modern experience was a stated goal of the Penn Museum’s transformation of its Middle East collections, the first in an ambitious series of planned renovations to the institution’s signature galleries. Indeed, one emerges from these galleries with the sense that our histories—and therefore our destinies—are much more intertwined than we are often led to believe, and that the key to our shared humanity lies in our creativity and the innovative solutions each culture arrives at in addressing the common problems we face.

The Penn Museum is located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104. Visit their website at www.penn.museum.

 

WILLOW WREATH of gold, lapis, carnelian, and shell.

 
 

      Get Inspired!

 
 

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David Updike is an editor at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where his current projects include exhibition catalogs on Marcel Duchamp and the Art to Wear movement. His profile of designer Wendy Stevens appeared in Ornament, Vol. 40, No. 2. For this issue, he ventured across the Schuylkill River to another Philadelphia cultural treasure, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, to tour its newly renovated Middle East Galleries. His visit left him with a renewed respect for the common, ancient roots of human civilization, and a little bit in awe of Chaldean superstar, Queen Puabi.

Ancient Nubian Face Beads Volume 40.2

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ENLARGED VIEWS OF FOUR INTACT NUBIAN FACE BEADS: These very clear images show good representations of Medusa, two as a Gorgon and two as a woman. But in this case, the women are formed from Gorgon face canes, evident from the striations of their hair; numbering 8 - 9. The rectangular striations represent the writhing snakes of Gorgon. The clarity of their outlines and their precise shapes suggest that these are geometric rods that were bundled onto or overlaid the face cane and not hot-layered. These four beads present two treatments of the basic face cane, all with a black outline around the lower face, with an additional red lower surround for the Gorgons, as well as a yellow bust. The red arc represents the blood from her severed head. Gorgon canes used on spherical face beads very rarely show this feature; out of over 220 scanned images, there were only two with a blood arc.

The close conformation of the Gorgon faces suggests they are from the same cane. Gorgon as a woman has flesh-colored glass formed into a neck and shoulders, with a black line or rod for a necklace, but they differ somewhat, possibly altered when marvered or encased onto or into the matrix to form a cane, although both have 9 hair striations. All of the glass of the face, neck and bust have some degree of uneven pink, although some are more faded.

The use of flesh-colored glass for mosaic face beads is unique, since all other extant beads have the skin portrayed in white/whitish or slightly ruddy glass. Could the skin tone of all other beads have de-vitrified to white from flesh-colored? Probably not. The whitish glass around each face cane is the same and has deteriorated more than the other colors of glass. When illuminated at the right angle, these white, mottled areas are actually cracked or crazed glass.

These similarities strongly point to products of the same glass workshop, most likely Roman Egypt, possibly Nubian. The transparent green matrix around the face canes of these Nubian face beads makes this color the most common for tabular face beads, totaling 44 of 62 tabular beads examined, or seventy-one percent. Photograph courtesy of and © the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, previously published in Liu (2014: 42).

Figural mosaic images on beads are among the most rare of ancient glass. Early Roman Egyptian face beads of approximately 100 B.C-A.D. 100 represent the most numerous of such ornaments, perhaps existing in the low thousands and were widely distributed through Europe and the Middle East, and are usually regarded as luxury goods. Recent finds place them in the Crimea, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Nubia, and Croatia (Sidebotham et al., 2015), as well as Hungary (Liu, pers. comm.). Their most common imagery displays full-frontal faces of Medusa as a Gorgon with stylized snakes as hair, or less often of Medusa as a beautiful woman with luxurious long hair, a necklace and a bust. Late Roman face beads, of the fourth/fifth centuries B.C., number less than thirty, occur primarily in northern Europe and Russia, but have entirely different imagery, most likely emperors. The only other cultures that also produced figural mosaics are the Javanese (Jatim beads of fifth/sixth century A.D., Lankton and Bernbaum 2007), Thai at Klong Thom (tabular face beads that may not be mosaics, possibly first to seventh century A.D.), at Bara in Pakistan and potentially somewhere in Afghanistan, based upon two nearly identical beads with complex griffin and duck mosaics.

      For those who study such mosaic face beads and glass with similar canes, there are major, problematic suppositions, since no workshops with such figural canes have ever been found, nor any face canes used for beads. Some Egyptian glass workshop sites did contain mosaic glass/canes (Stern and Schlick-Nolte 1994: 27). However, two larger cane slices depicting the most frequently used Gorgon and Medusa as a woman are in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art (Liu 2008b: 62, 1.6 cm high and 2.2 cm diameter) and may be very rare examples of face canes before they were pulled or reduced to the diminutive sizes suitable for marvering onto or encasing in a face bead (page 38). Composite mosaic bars with half-face images for theater masks have been found, but these larger, more complex canes were never used for beads (Liu 2008b). 

ROUND TABULAR EARLY ROMAN MOSAIC FACE BEADS from the Crimea, all with a Gorgon face cane, 1.4 cm high, 0.4 - 0.6 cm thick; (Liu 2008b, 2014). Burial conditions there tend to weaken the glass, so one of these broke, revealing that the transverse, non-tapering perforation resulted from hot-piercing and not from being formed on a mandrel. With our observation of similar hot- or rod-piercing in Nubian tabular face beads, this probably means that all or most tabular face beads are composed of one face cane encased in a glass matrix, with the perforation pierced. They all follow the convention of having the eyebrows, eyes and nose made in one rectangular block, with the mouth a separate element. The forehead and lower part of the face are also separate; this has also been observed by Alekseeva (1971). Note that the right-hand bead is very similar in color to Nubian tabular face beads, and the lighter glass of the eye/nose/eyebrow block is clearly evident. Courtesy of Teresa and Paul Harbaugh. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament unless noted. BROKEN HOT-PIERCED LOZENGE-SHAPED NUBIAN TABULAR FACE BEAD AND FRONTAL VIEW OF BROKEN NUBIAN TABULAR BEAD OF GORGON showing distortion of cane and red arc indicating blood of Gorgon’s severed head, 1.1 cm diameter/23.830c. Note crazed, cracked or crackled glass around face cane. BROKEN TABULAR GORGON FACE BEAD VS CLASSIC ROUND TABULAR GORGON FACE BEAD FROM NUBIA; the latter is deteriorated, but the stylized rod striations are faintly visible, 1.1 cm diameter/23.788. INTACT TABULAR NUBIAN FACE BEAD OF GORGON AS A WOMAN, placed on top of flashlight in attempt to show cracks/23.830c. Note cracks, grooves on surface, as well as large amount of surface pits. All photographs of Nubian glass beads are courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, taken by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.

      Because the Gorgon/Medusa canes are placed into so many different shapes of beads (spherical, tabular, barrel, and bulla-shaped), numbering between one for tabular, two to eight face canes per spherical bead and varying in how they are placed on the bead, with a great variety of surrounds and colors, in addition to other mosaic imagery, researchers have postulated that Medusa, Gorgon and other canes employed on face beads were most likely produced as a basic cane by skilled glassworkers in Ptolemaic-Roman Egypt, such as in Alexandria, Egypt, the Levant or elsewhere in the Middle East (Henderson 2013, Lankton et al., 2016). These face/Medusa/Gorgon canes, whether in large diameter form or reduced by pulling while hot into smaller sizes suitable for face beads, were then distributed to disparate end users, usually glass beadmakers. Thus the great individual variation found on early Roman face beads. But there has also never been confirmation that face canes were an item of trade, although glass tesserae for mosaics or beads have been found in such contexts (Andersen and Sode 2010, Henderson 2013, Neri et al., 2016).

LOZENGE-SHAPED, ROUND AND SQUARE TABULAR ROMAN MOSAIC FACE BEADS, from respectively Nubia, unknown location and the Crimea. The rhomboid cane of Gorgon as a woman lacks any overlaid hair, and has a simple black bar as a necklace, like the face cane from the Crimea. The surrounding glass is badly cracked and appears whitish; it is approximately 1.2 x 1.5 cm. THE ROUND BEAD OF MEDUSA as a woman has overlaid black hair, necklace of a mosaic bar, quite similar to the spherical face bead found in Nubia on bottom of page and is 1.5 cm in diameter. THE SQUARE BEAD OF MEDUSA as a woman has a necklace and a crisp bundled-rod surround of chequer pattern; this style is one of two well known for square face beads (Liu 1976; 2008b). Square face beads are rarer then round ones but lozenge-shaped tabular beads have only been found in the one Nubian cache. In all three beads, the face cane extends through the depth of the bead. Mosaic face cane slices were probably clipped or nipped off the composite bar, and have conchoidal fractures on both obverse and reverse, before grinding/polishing, as seen in specimens on page 38. Square bead courtesy of Teresa and Paul Harbaugh. Photograph of round tabular bead courtesy of Jamey D. Allen and former Lois S. Dubin Collection.

      While we do not know the size of ancient face canes, Brian Kerkvliet (Liu 1989), the first American to make mosaic face canes, used the layering or the hot-strip method for his murrine canes. In one continuous work session of about two hours, he ended with a piece of glass cane approximately three inches in diameter by four inches long (approximately 7.5 x 10.0 cm), before pulling the rod while hot to a size small enough for application to face beads, at approximately 0.35 cm diameter.

The iconography of the three Gorgon sisters, including Medusa, the only one who was mortal, is schematic but not overly rigid when portrayed in glass mosaics: Gorgons have variable number of hair striations or stylized snakes, seen as square/rectangular rods (Liu 2014). Most, but not all Gorgons on tabular beads, also have a red line on the lower portion of the face cane, indicating the blood from her severed head, sometimes misinterpreted as a beard. Very rarely do Gorgon face canes on spherical beads display this red arc of blood. 

Medusa, shown with long black hair, a neck with necklace and bust, also shows considerable variation; she is known for her charms and beautiful hair, but in a number of her face canes, the overlying black hair barely covers the stylized snake hair, which protrude from the forehead as knobs, as seen below. Where Medusa is shown with long hair, achieved by hot layering black glass (actually purple), it varies considerably, as do the mosaic bars used to denote her necklace. The application of Gorgon and Medusa as a woman has never been seen on the same face bead, except on one extremely rare glass spindle whorl held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Liu 1976). All these images have apotropaic value, most likely adding to their value as luxury beads. Presumably, people contemporary with these face beads would have been able to decipher the meaning of all their features, but not modern viewers, who lack knowledge about their mythology and their iconography.

SPHERICAL EARLY ROMAN MOSAIC FACE BEADS from Nubia and two beads from the marketplace, with no attribution. All are Medusa with long black hair, a mosaic bar necklace, neck and bust, all in white glass for the skin (although the flesh of the Nubian bead has an ivory cast); middle bead is 1.3 cm diameter and has been highly reground. THE GREEN BEAD FROM NUBIA has two face canes and no other applied features; it is highly unusual in that the matrix of the face cane almost matches the body of the bead; usually, the cane color contrasts with the rest of the bead, as seen in the other two examples. Note the close resemblance of the mosaic bar used to denote a necklace in the round yellow tabular bead and the green spherical face bead from Nubia. THE BLUE BEAD IS A GOOD EXAMPLE of the overlaid hair not completely hiding the original rod striations on the Gorgon face cane, as noted by the partial rods or knobs on her forehead. At least 6-7 such beads have been seen. Notice the considerable variation of the nose, eyes, eyebrow, mouth, and necklaces of these six beads, as well as the hair, and that only the Nubian tabular cane has flesh-color. Photograph of the green spherical bead 24.764 courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph of middle bead from Liu (1995). Photograph of blue bead courtesy of Walker Qin, collection of the Beijing Bead Museum/Library.

      In 2014, I was able to view high resolution color photographs of the tabular mosaic face beads excavated in the 1920s by Reisner in Nubia from the Merotic culture. These early Roman face beads, besides being the largest cache from a known context, were unique for their lozenge shape, versus round or square for all extant tabular face beads. Like other early Roman mosaic face beads, those from Nubia probably date from about 100 B.C.-A.D. 100, although those from Meroë are more tightly dated to 40 B.C.-A.D. 114. In addition, Gorgon canes were used to represent both Gorgon and Medusa, without overlaid black hair for Medusa, but she had a neck, necklace and bust, and many faces and bodies of both types were in flesh-toned glass, also never before seen in extant face beads (Liu 2014). Gorgon used as a woman, i.e. Medusa, is a rare mosaic image; out of a database of about 220 face beads that I have scanned, only 38 present Medusa as a woman, usually seen as plaques on spherical face beads, even rarer on tabular face beads. Of these 38, only 7 appear to be made from Gorgon canes; none of these modified Gorgon faces had ever been applied to tabular beads. Since Nubians were adept with faience working, glazed stones, glassworking in the form of unique stratified eyebeads with gold bands, as well as enameling (Markowitz and Doxey 2014a), I thought at that time that these Nubian face beads could be an excellent example of local glassworkers modifying imported face canes. But without compositional studies on the glass of face canes and their surrounds, there is no way to prove this supposition. In recent email discussions with James Lankton, he might test some of these Nubian face fragments if granted permission.

Our study of these Nubian face beads presented a compelling case for the supposition that all forms of facial images for early face beads were all derived from a Gorgon cane, adapted by beadmakers into Medusa and numerous other variations.

      With the advent of portable XRF spectrometers and their ability to undertake accurate, non-destructive compositional analyses (Lankton et al., 2016; Liu et al., 2012), museum curators and collectors should be much less loath to have their specimens tested. The Nubian face beads, while weathered to some extent, have mainly non-devitrified surfaces, so they should not skew results of XRF testing. If glass samples of the eyes/nose block, matrix of the face, their hair striations, hot-layered hair and surrounds were tested, as well as the matrices surrounding the cane slices, there should be enough information to compare with the compositional glass databases now being gathered (Henderson 2013; Lankton and Dussubieux 2006). If face beads from other known sites were also tested, the results would offer more for comparison. Large and varying differences in glass of the face canes versus their surrounds could suggest local production of the beads, with the mosaic canes as an import. 

GREEN BARREL BEAD WITH TWO FACES, found in Nubia; faces appear to be a version of Gorgon, but not seen before. Brown glass may denote hair. The face cane shown is battered and of very white glass. This bead (21.12473.4) was found with the eyebeads with gold foil or bands on the last page. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

      The face beads excavated by Reisner could have been imported by the Nubians from Roman Egypt, since there was extensive trade, including luxury items like glass, between gold and agricultural product rich Nubia and Egypt (Markowitz and Doxey 2014b; O’Connor 1993: 89). Our study of these Nubian face beads presented a compelling case for the supposition that all forms of facial images for early face beads were all derived from a Gorgon cane, adapted by beadmakers into Medusa and numerous other variations.

This past October, both Tom Holland and I were going to be in Boston, so I requested permission from Denise Doxey (one of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Egyptian Curators) if we could study the Nubian glass finds, which included those seen previously as photographs and a few others mentioned in excavation reports. Sage and Tom Holland are among the few American glass artists who have replicated ancient glass beads (2003), so I was grateful to have his experienced eye in directly examining these face beads. Since we were not at the museum long, further shortened by an emergency evacuation, I sent a set of my photographs to Sage and Tom so they could analyze them further. Tom’s first observation was that all the Nubian tabular face beads were slices from a whole cane and not face canes marvered onto a bead. Like most tabular face beads, these were therefore not made on a mandrel but were a nipped slice of a cane, reheated for working into a more uniform shape, then hot-pierced, often called rod-pierced. Hot-piercing with an iron rod distorts the cane, as seen in the photographs shown of both broken Nubian and non-Nubian tabular face beads. Interestingly, while the interior glass is distorted, the surface face cane images themselves do not show this effect. In this type of piercing procedure, the glass is hot, while the iron rod is cold. In contemporary glassworking, a red-hot tungsten rod is used to pierce cold glass, the complete opposite of the ancient process.

When we examined the tabular Nubian face beads, both intact and fragmentary, on the surface of almost all Nubian-found tabular face beads, while very well preserved, there was deteriorated white, mottled glass surrounding the face canes, also noted by Reisner in his field sketches. Using macro photography and flash at the right angle, it become apparent that this is merely extensive cracking, crazing or crackling of the glass surrounding the face cane, indicating great incompatibility with the opaque murrine face cane glass. On some, there were also fractures (very apparent with transillumination), both in the glass and on the surface, as well as many pits on the glass surface. Not all tabular Nubian face beads displayed these additional features, nor did other non-Nubian tabular face beads with similar transparent green glass surrounds. The crazed glass appears to be a translucent brown glass, seen in a few examples that had not crazed too badly (page 39). The cracked glass framed the face cane to provide support for the facial components, to prevent surface tension from distorting these features when the mosaic cane was being hotworked. This type of incompatibility was never seen on any other extant tabular early Roman face beads. 

UNUSUALLY LARGE PLAQUES OR FACE CANES OF GORGON AND MEDUSA, respectively F1909.491, 2.2 cm diameter and F1909.511, 1.6 cm high, neither perforated but ground flat on both sides. Too big for face beads, these are probably extremely rare slices of canes before they were heated and pulled or reduced in diameter to sizes suitable for use in face beads. These are the only such face canes I have seen since I began to research mosaic face canes in 1974. The Medusa slice is notable for the very luxuriant hair and having what appears to be two necklaces, one a mosaic bar. Slices of face canes were struck, clipped, snapped or chipped from a composite mosaic bar (Stern and Schlick-Nolte 1994: 62).
THREE FULL-FACE MOSAIC SLICES REPRESENTING COURTESANS, 2.2 cm high, show the same cane, but flipped; two are ground flat, one shows the conchoidal fractures as a consequence of being broken from a composite bar. Interestingly, these faces are not white, but almost flesh-colored. Both the Freer Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art own identical slices, which are somewhat too small and simple for theater masks, but too large for face beads. In addition, such imagery of courtesans was never used for any face beads. Photographs were previously published in Liu (2008b), courtesy of the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Gift of Charles Lang Freer; and Liu (2008a), shows additional tabular face beads and mosaic face inlay, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

      Three other face beads from Nubia represented a round green classic Gorgon tabular bead, much degenerated so it was not possible to determine the original color of the face cane; a spherical bead with two faces of Medusa, with cane slices almost matching the green glass of the bead matrix. Rarely are face canes just marvered onto a matrix without different squares of color filling the intervening spaces, or of the face cane not being of a contrasting color to the matrix of the bead. The last was a green barrel bead with two somewhat battered and atypical faces of Gorgon (page 37); this face and that of Medusa were white, unlike the other flesh-toned Nubian tabular beads, and lack cracking/crazing of their glass, although they do show damage from burial. Thus, we strongly believe these three face beads were imports.

While Nubians certainly had skills working silicates such as faience and enameling, there is no evidence of glassworking (Markowitz and Doxey 2014b), although Lacovara (1998) comments on the importance of the Merotic glass industry. The approximately 35 intact, broken and fragmentary tabular face beads excavated from Meroë (W308 number 27, accession numbers 23.830a, b and c, Dunham 1963) show unique features: rhomboid or lozenge shape, versus round or square for all other extant tabular face beads; both Gorgon and Medusa images derived from Gorgon canes, without addition of overlaid hair on Medusa; flesh-colored face and body, versus white for other extant tabular beads; extreme incompatibility between the glass of the face canes and overlaid or surrounding glass, manifested in cracking, crazing and crackling of the glass surface. Despite all these dramatic differences, we cannot conclude whether these Merotic finds are locally altered or are imports. Whether locally adapted or imported from Roman Egypt, all the tabular Nubian beads are the product of the same workshop or beadmaker, and are unique in the totality of early Roman face beads. The other three face beads that were not found in W308 are most likely imports. Perhaps careful compositional testing will provide an answer to the origin and makers of this tantalizing group of Nubian tabular face beads.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Robert K. Liu thanks Denise M. Doxey, Yvonne J. Markowitz, Amelia Kantrovitz, and Carolyn Cruthirds of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for providing both the photographs of the Nubian glass beads, for answering my numerous questions on their attribution, as well as permission to study, photograph and publish the Nubian material. He also thanks Jamey D. Allen for the yellow face bead image of Medusa and prior discussions on Roman mosaic face beads. 

 

NUBIAN TABULAR FACE BEADS where glass around face cane has not entirely crazed, showing its original translucent brown glass color; one can clearly see that it is not meant to be hair, but merely frames the face cane. When making a cane, the background glass of any subject is a necessary support that prevents distortion from surface tension when the mosaic cane is being hotworked.
GLASS EYE BEADS WITH STRATIFIED EYES AND APPLIED GOLD BANDS, recovered from a royal burial in the Northern Cemetery at Meroë, 1.8 cm diameter (Dunham 1957). Dating from the early second century A.D., these eye beads are the only ones known in the ancient world to have applied gold bands on their surface (pers. comm. 10/31/2014 D. Doxey), although other composite and glass beads also had gold applied (Liu 2014: 41). Note the two parallel grooves on the left-hand bead, due to gold foil or sheet having fallen off. Due to the higher melting temperature of gold than glass, it will sink into the glass, causing such grooves that have been misinterpreted as ground into the glass to accommodate the gold bands. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Photograph courtesy of and © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, previously published in Liu 2014: 41.
PHOTOGRAPHIC SETUP FOR NUBIAN GLASS BEADS of hand-held Canon 6D, 100mm macro lens, coupled to Canon 580EX flash with plastic diffuser, on Leitz tablepod/ballhead, as primary camera. 100mm lens was coupled to Kenko 12mm extension tube to further increase magnification. Liu also used hand-held Canon 7D, 60mm macro lens with high ISO and no flash.

 

REFERENCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Alekseeva, E. M.
1971 Miniature mosaic in glass ornaments, first century B.C. second century A.D. [in Russian]. Sovetskaia Arkheologiia 4: 178-185.
1978 Ancient Beads of the Northern Black Sea Littoral 2 [in Russian]. Sovetskaia Arkheologiia G1-12: 104 p., plates 20-34.
1982 Ancient Beads of the Northern Black Sea Littoral 3 [in Russian]. Sovetskaia Arkheologiia G1-12: 85 p., plates 35-54.
Andersen, J. H. and T. Sode. 2010 The Glass Bead Material. In: Ribe Excavations 1970-76, Vol.6, edited by M. Bencard and H. Brinch Madsen. Jutland Archaeological Society, Hojbjerg, Denmark: 17-59. 
Auth, S. H.
1999 Mosaic glass mask plaques and the ancient theater. Journal of Glass Studies 41: 51-72.
Bruhn. K.-S. 1995 Designs in miniature: The story of mosaic glass. Corning, The Corning Museum of Glass: 48 p.
Dunham, D. 1957 The Royal Cemeteries of Kush. Vol. IV. The Royal Tombs at Meroë and Barkal. Excavated by the late George A. Reisner, edited and compiled by Dows Dunham. Boston, The Museum of Fine Arts: 218 p.
1963 The Royal Cemeteries of Kush: Vol. V. The West and South Cemeteries at Meroë. Excavated by the late George A. Reisner, edited and compiled by Dows Dunham. Boston, The Museum of Fine Arts: 466 p.
Engle, A. 1976 Readings in glass history 6-7. Jerusalem, Phoenix Publications: 142 p.
Erdrich, M. and H.-U. Voss. 1997 Die Perlen der Germanen des 1.-5. Jahrhunderts in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein und Niedersachsen: 77-93. In: U. von Freeden and A. Wieczorek (eds) Perlen. Archäologie, Techniken, Analysen. Bonn, Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH: 386 p., 26 pls.
Ettinghausen, R. 1962 Ancient glass in the Freer Gallery of Art. Smithsonian Publication 4509: 44 p.
Friedman, F. D. (ed) 1998 Gifts of the Nile. Ancient Egyptian Faience. Thames and Hudson and Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design: 288 p.
Fukai, S. 1983 Persian glass beads. Kyoto, Tankosha: 238 p.
Goldstein, S. M. 1979. Pre-Roman and Early Roman Glass in The Corning Museum of Glass. Corning, The Corning Museum of Glass: 312 p.
2001 Ancient glass. In: Ancient Glass, Miho Museum: 178-183. Shiga Prefecture, Miho Museum: 217 p.
Gore, R. 1984 The Dead Do Tell Tales at Vesuvius. National Geographic 165 (5): 557-613.
Harden, D.B. 1967. Some aspects of Pre-Roman mosaic glass. Annales du 4e Congres de l’Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre. Liege: AIHV: 29-38.
Henderson, J. 2013 Ancient Glass. An Interdisciplinary Exploration. Cambridge University Press: 433 p. 
Holland, S. and T. Holland. 2003 Master Class: Warring States Beads. Ornament 27(1): 46-51.
Karlin, E. Z. 2007 The historic use of the medusa image in jewelry and the decorative arts. Presented at the Second Annual Fall Jewelry Conference at FIT: A place in time: Jewelry within the context of the decorative arts. October 6, 2007, New York City.
Lankton, J.W. and M. Bernbaum. 2007 An Archaeological Approach to Understanding the Meaning of Beads Using the Example of Korean National Treasure 634, a Bead from a 5th/6th Century Royal Sila Tomb. Beads 19: 32-41.
—and L. Dussubieux. 2006 Early glass in Asian maritime trade: A review and an interpretation of compositional analyses. Journal of Glass Studies 48: 121-144.
—Diamanti, J. and J. M. Kenoyer. 2003 A bead timeline. Volume I: Prehistory to 1200 CE. Washington, D.C., The Bead Museum: 95 p.
—B. Gratuze, K. Tantrakan, Q.H. Li, and S. Liu. 2016 Scientific Analysis of Ancient Glass: Answering Questions and Questioning the Answers. In: F. Gan, L. Qinghui and J. Henderson (eds). Recent Advances in the Scientific Research on Ancient Glass and Glaze. Vol. 2, Ch. 14: 267-301. Hackensack, World Century Publishing Corp. and Singapore, World Scientific Publishing Co., Pte, Ltd: 572 p.
Lierke, R. 1992 Early history of lampwork—Some facts, findings and theories. Part 2. Fire or flame? Lampworking techniques in antiquity. Glastechnische Berichte 65 (12): 341-348.
Liu, R. K. 1974 Glass mosaic or millefiore beads. The Bead Journal 1 (1): 22-26.
1976 Ancient glass ornaments with human facial images. The Bead Journal 2 (3): 27-32.
1989 Collectibles: Mosaic Face Beads. Ornament 12 (3): 22-23.
1995 Collectible Beads. A Universal Aesthetic. Vista, Ornament, Inc.: 256 p.
2008a Jewelry of the Classical World. The Met’s New Greek & Roman Galleries. Ornament 31 (3): 36-39.
2008b Roman Mosaic Face Plaques and Beads. Ornament 31 (5): 60-65.
2012 Islamic Glass Beads. The Well-Traveled Ornament. Ornament 36 (1): 58-63, 70.
2014 Nubian Mosaic Face Beads. The Enigma of Variations. Ornament 37 (5): 40-45.
Liu, S., Q.H. Li, F. Gan, P. Zhang, J.W. Lankton. 2012 Silk Road glass in Xinjiang, China: chemical compositional analysis and interpretation using a high-resolution portable XRF spectrometer. Journal of Archaeological Science 39 (7): 2128-2142.
Markowitz, Y.J. and D.M. Doxey. 2014a Gold and the Gods. Jewels of Ancient Nubia. Ornament 37 (4): 32-37.
2014b Jewels of Ancient Nubia. MFA PUBLICATIONS, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: 184 p.
Neri, E. et al., 2016 Late Roman and Byzantine mosaic opaque “glass-ceramics” tesserae (5th-9th century), Ceramics International (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ceramint.2016.09.033i.
O’Connor, D. 1993 Ancient Nubia. Egypt’s Rival in Africa. The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania: 178 p. 
Rütti, B. 1991 Die römischen Glãser aus Augst und Kaieraugust. Forschungen in Augst 13/1: 370 p., tables.
Sarpellon, G. 1990 miniature di vetro. murrine 1838 1924. Venezia, arsenale editrice: 194 p.
Sidebotham, S.E., I. Zych, J. K. Radkowska and M. Woxniak. 2015 Egypt. The Harbor Temenos in the Southwestern Bay. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean. XXIV/1: 306-319.
Selling, D. 1942 Mosaikpärlor med ansiksmasker. Fornvännen: 23-48.
Sode, T. 2004 The Glass Bead Material. In: Ribe Excavations 1970-76, Vol.5, edited by M. Bencard and H. Brinch Madsen. Jutland Archaeological Society, Hojbjerg, Denmark: 83-102. 
Spaer, M. 2001 Ancient glass in the Israel Museum. Beads and other small objects. Jerusalem, Israel Museum: 384 p., 2 maps.
Stern, E. M. 2001 Roman, Byzantine, and Early Medieval Glass. 10 BCE-700 CE. Ernesto Wolf Collection. Ostfildern-Ruit, Verlag Gerd Hatje: 427 p.
—and B. Schlick-Nolte. 1994 Early glass of the ancient world. 1600 B.C.-A.D. 50. Ernesto Wolf Collection. Ostfildern, Verlag Gerd Hatje: 450 p. 
Stout, A. M. 1985 Mosaic glass face beads: Their significance in northern Europe during the Later Roman Empire. Vols. I, II. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota: 359 p.
1986 The archaeological context of Late Roman Period mosaic glass face beads. Ornament 9 (4): 58-61, 76-77.
Tempelmann-Maczynska, M. 1985 Die Perlen der römischen Kaiserzeit und der frühen Phase der Völkerwanderungszeit im mittereuropäischen Barbicum. Romisch-Germanische Forschungen 43: 339 p., 80 Tafe

 

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RKL_Contributor.jpg

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. A frequent lecturer, some of his topics include precolumbian jewelry, prehistoric Southwest jewelry and ancient Egyptian jewelry. In this issue Liu revisits the unique early Roman mosaic face beads found in Nubia, and enlists the help of glass bead experts and replicators of ancient glass, Sage and Tom Holland.

Glass Ornaments at the Israel Museum Volume 40.1

CORE-FORMED PHOENICIAN HEAD PENDANTS, representative samples of these early glass ornaments, from about the second to sixth century B.C. 
GLASS WORKSHOP PRODUCTS of blown vessels and rare windowpane glass, Beth Shean, A.D. sixth-seventh century. Courtesy of the Israel Museum. Photographs by Jocelyne Okrent and Eliana and Daniel Mitropoulos.
CHUNKS OF GLASS COLORED BY COBALT OR COPPER OXIDES most likely recovered from the sea, as seen by the barnacle shells. Blue glass was both highly desired and widely used; glass beadmakers utilized pieces of such glass to make their products, but did not make their own melts.

The vast complex of the Israel Museum, based in Jerusalem, is its largest cultural institution and houses the Archaeology Wing, recently visited and extensively photographed by Jocelyne Okrent and her children, Eliana and Daniel Mitropoulos. This enabled us to write a brief review of their extensive glass ornament and small object collections of the ancient Middle East. Here we show glass beads and other items of personal adornment from Mycenaean Greece to the Islamic Period, when their glass products were widely distributed in antiquity. Given the importance of glass and other silicate beads and ornaments in deciphering dating, trade, technology, and cultural traits of ancient peoples, this exhibit covers most of the important glass ornaments from the ancient Middle East.

      Like neighboring Egypt, Israel is also rich in archaeological glass. The glass ornaments of the Archaeology Wing, both from within the country and the surrounding Middle East, have been documented by Maud Spaer’s catalog (2001). Much of their holdings in glass come from the 1970s donation of the Eliahu Dobkin Collection, which was assembled in Jerusalem. Additional important contributions came from the Stern Collection, acquired in Egypt, and the Rabenou Collection, gathered in Iran.

The 1970s were the beginning of intense activity in the bead community and I began acquiring the Ornament bead study collection then (Liu 1995), often from sources in the forementioned countries, as these were the main suppliers of the marketplace. It is likely that Lebanon, Syria and Turkey also contributed glass ornaments. Jocelyne’s late mother, Rita, of the Rita Okrent Collection, was a major dealer of beads and other jewelry at that time.

Because a large part of the museum’s glass beads, pendants, earrings, and bracelets came from private collections, not only does it match that of many other bead collectors, but also tends to be more broadly representative than many museums without access to such types of collections. Thus their displays and accompanying captions are heuristic for museum visitors who want to expand their knowledge of ancient glass ornaments and small objects of glass like spindle whorls, as well as glassworking in general.

Few museums are able to exhibit glass workshops and their products, such as the one from Beth Shean. A glass furnace was also found, as well as ashes and olive pits for annealing the glass, to prevent cracking from heat stresses. At a mid-first century B.C. Jerusalem glass workshop, there was evidence of glassblowing, a late glass technique that is not germane to most ancient beads shown.

While some of the glass ornaments are segregated as to age or culture, others are shown in a mixed lot, which can be confusing to those who have less knowledge of dating or attribution of beads. But such assemblages are often the way beads are found or acquired from the marketplace. The obvious challenge is in their identification. Often, working with small batches of mixed beads provides good opportunities for learning. For example, in Figure 4, of gold glass beads, there are also three pyramidal glass spacers, two of blue glass, one with a gold-foil cover. Hotworked, then ground, these show how gold was used to enhance glass ornaments. This is a practice that dates from at least Mycenaean culture, when beads, like those shown on this page, were also gold-foiled. 

 

Left to right, top to bottom:
1. MYCENAEAN GLASS IVY LEAF SPACER BEADS, press-molded, fourteenth-thirteenth century B.C.
2. TRIANGULAR EYE BEADS, from Jerusalem and the Aegean(?), late ninth-seventh century B.C., with core-formed glass vessels, sixth-third century B.C.
3. MONOCHROME BEADS/SPACERS, TRAILED BEADS AND BIRD BEADS, Near East and Western Asia, fifteenth-thirteenth century B.C.
4. GOLD GLASS BEADS, BEADS SIMILAR TO THOSE FROM RHODES AND ROMAN PYRAMIDAL SPACERS, latter having one with gold-foil cover.
5. TABULAR EYEBEADS, THREE EARPLUGS/ORNAMENTS AND TWO BIRD BEADS, Western Asia, Egypt and probably Italy, eighth-seventh century B.C.
6. EYEBEADS, Mediterranean region, Persia and Egypt, sixth century B.C. - A.D. fourteenth century.
7. STRAND OF GLASS PENDANTS, varying dates, up to Byzantine Period.
8. ISLAMIC PERIOD BEADS AND PENDANTS, including those done with folded technique.
9. GLASS BRACELETS, unprovenanced, A.D. third-nineteenth century.
10. ROMAN/PTOLOMAIC, ISLAMIC AND BYZANTINE BEADS AND PENDANTS; note use of loops, and characteristic yellow/green date bead from Egypt.
11. SILVER HOARD FOUND IN TERRACOTTA JAR, mostly of silver jewelry, rolled/folded silver melts, carnelian and other hardstone beads, as well as faience beads. Most likely this was a jeweler’s hoard. Possibly the silver was rolled to save space in the jar.

 

REFERENCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Lankton, J. W. et. al.
2003. A Bead Timeline. Volume I: Prehistory to 1200 CE. Washington, D.C.: The Bead Museum/Bead Society of Greater Washington: 96 p.
Liu, R. K. 1995. Collectible Beads. San Marcos: Ornament, Inc: 256 p. 
Spaer, M. 2001. Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum. Beads and Other Small Objects. Jerusalem: The Israel Museum: 384 p., 1 map.

 

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Jocelyene-Okrent-Contributor.jpg

Jocelyne Okrent is the owner of the Rita Okrent Collection, which she has managed since early 2008. Her mother, Rita Okrent, was a pioneer bead dealer and ethnic jewelry designer, active from the 1970s/1990s in necklace design with ethnic beads. Although Jocelyne’s professional expertise was as a product manager in technology, and not in her mother’s bead collection, she has become knowledgeable regarding her mother’s remaining inventory. In her spare time, Okrent manages her twin thirteen year olds, two cats and a dog, and does some local Southern California Bead Society Bazaars.

RKL_Contributor.jpg

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. A frequent lecturer, some of his topics include precolumbian jewelry, prehistoric Southwest jewelry and ancient Egyptian jewelry. In this issue Liu writes about glass ornaments at The Israel Museum with Jocelyne Okrent, and documents five jewelers who attended the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Egyptian Broadcollars Volume 39.3

VIRTUALLY INTACT FAIENCE BROADCOLLAR OF WAH, an estate manager, XIth Dynasty, circa 2020 B.C., 39.4 cm deep. X-ray in 1940 revealed this almost intact broadcollar within his mummy wrappings. It is the best preserved example of its type and is strung on linen threads without disk beads, with the typical fringe of drop pendants and semi-circular terminals. The first row has 83 cylindrical faience beads, the last 222 beads, increasing gradually in length from top to bottom, hinting at how many beads are required for this broadcollar. Ceramic artist Carol Strick has made a replica of this necklace.  Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  Rogers Fund/E. S. Harkness Gift, 1940, 40.3.2; gallery 105.  Photographed as displayed, with high ISO and manual mode on a Canon SLR.   Photographs by Robert K. Liu/ Ornament  unless noted.

VIRTUALLY INTACT FAIENCE BROADCOLLAR OF WAH, an estate manager, XIth Dynasty, circa 2020 B.C., 39.4 cm deep. X-ray in 1940 revealed this almost intact broadcollar within his mummy wrappings. It is the best preserved example of its type and is strung on linen threads without disk beads, with the typical fringe of drop pendants and semi-circular terminals. The first row has 83 cylindrical faience beads, the last 222 beads, increasing gradually in length from top to bottom, hinting at how many beads are required for this broadcollar. Ceramic artist Carol Strick has made a replica of this necklace. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund/E. S. Harkness Gift, 1940, 40.3.2; gallery 105. Photographed as displayed, with high ISO and manual mode on a Canon SLR. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament unless noted.

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.

The Tucson Shows 2017 Volume 39.3

PETER VAN DE WIJNGAART, FLOOR KASPARS, ROBERT WILLIAMS, BERNIE LAWITZ, AND HIS DAUGHTER HANNAH LAWITZ at the Silk Road Gem & Jewelry Show off of Grant Road, in the former Grant Inn, now the Grand Luxe Hotel and Resort. Van de Wijngaart and Kaspars are Dutch bead lovers who visit Tucson every year. Lawitz is the former owner of recently closed Beads Galore.  Photographs by Robert K. Liu and Patrick R. Benesh-Liu.

PETER VAN DE WIJNGAART, FLOOR KASPARS, ROBERT WILLIAMS, BERNIE LAWITZ, AND HIS DAUGHTER HANNAH LAWITZ at the Silk Road Gem & Jewelry Show off of Grant Road, in the former Grant Inn, now the Grand Luxe Hotel and Resort. Van de Wijngaart and Kaspars are Dutch bead lovers who visit Tucson every year. Lawitz is the former owner of recently closed Beads Galore. Photographs by Robert K. Liu and Patrick R. Benesh-Liu.

There is a thrill to treasure-hunting that transcends the humdrum routine of everyday life. It is the feeling that comes from encountering the unknown, and even more alluringly, the ability to somehow take that home with you.

      There exists a place where that is possible. It is called the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, which is somewhat of a misnomer in that instead of being one, singular show, it is more like if one occupied a small city with tents, pop-up tables, booths, and mini-vans. During the months of January and February, Tucson undergoes just such a transformation. Roughly fifty shows, fairs and festivals spring up around the city, some featuring just a dozen exhibitors, others hosting hundreds of vendors. It is not just gems and minerals that are for sale. Tribal and ethnographic art, ancient artifacts, crafting tools and supplies, hand-blown glass beads, jewelry, clothing, baskets, purses, backpacks, fossils, giant sculptures—it really is easier to list what you will not find at the Tucson Shows. Which is to say you can find almost everything there.

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Patrick R. Benesh-Liu is Associate Editor of Ornament and continues to find time to enjoy craft in between writing, travel and tech support. This January he and Robert travel to Tucson to visit the Gem & Mineral Show, where they will see old friends, make new ones, and cover all the wonders of that worldly bazaar. In this issue he describes one small corner of the vast market, and encourages readers to indulge in their inner explorer and visit the show themselves. As Ornament’s reporter, he also provides a zesty compilation of the latest news in craft, where you can find out what is happening with art to wear in the global neighborhood.

Heavenly Bodies Volume 39.2

Heavenly Bodies: The Exhibition
An Idea, Its Implementation and A Compelling Result

WILHELM BUCHERT BANGLE of gold, opal and pearl, 1969. Collection of Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim. Photograph by Rudiger Floter.

It all began in Saint Petersburg in the fall of 2013, during a conversation with Anna Vladimirovna Ratnikova, one of the jewelry curators at the Russian Museum of Ethnography, which, along with the Hermitage, the State Russian Museum and the Kunstkamera Museum, ranks among the city’s major museums. We talked about potential exhibition projects, about themes hitherto not contemplated, about new approaches to showcasing the rich diversity of jewelry in terms of appearance and forms of expression. Anna sparked a great idea by asking whether there had ever been an exhibition themed around celestial bodies, i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars in jewelry.

      An idea was born: an idea that was intriguing, an idea whose implementation opened up a new area of research, an idea that eventually led to the “Heavenly Bodies: The Sun, Moon and Stars in Jewellery” exhibition at Pforzheim’s Jewelry Museum (Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim), probably a worldwide first and with the participation of renowned international partners, such as the Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Paris, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) in Vienna, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (State Art Collections) in Dresden, to name just a few, as well as private collectors and contemporary artists from both Germany and abroad, who all responded generously and unhesitatingly to the Jewelry Museum’s request for loans.

From the start, the intention was to cover the theme, both in the exhibition and in the accompanying book, in a manner that reveals the global dimension of “heavenly jewelry.”

The preliminary work was widely ramified. Our considerations included the visual arts, literature and music, as well as religions and myths from many of the world’s cultures and regions, and we explored the diversity of the celestial bodies’ representation in the artistic crafts, for example. New dimensions regarding our understanding of the cosmos, of the universe, emerged, also and particularly in terms of its extensive relations to jewelry. After all: the Ancient Greek word for cosmos, κόσµος, means universe, order and jewelry as well!

 

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Fritz Falk, a master goldsmith and jewelry historian, began his career as a research assistant at Pforzheim’s Jewelry Museum, and became its director in 1971. Since then, he has significantly expanded its collection, and has developed it into a specialized museum that is unique worldwide, one whose exhibits are much sought after as exquisite loans for exhibitions all over the planet. While the main focus of Falk’s activity was on collecting jewelry from classical antiquity, the Renaissance and the Art Nouveau period, he also felt particularly committed to highlighting modern, contemporary jewelry trends. After retiring in 2004, he curated “Serpentina: The Snake in Jewellery From Around the World” in 2011 to mark the Reuchlinhaus’s fiftieth anniversary.

Stone Beads and Their Imitations Volume 39.1

Lapidary Skills & Imitations In Stone Beads

FOUR ANCIENT TABULAR/LENTICULAR HARD STONE BEADS FROM AFGHANISTAN AND TWO REPLICA AGATE BEADS; these carnelian and agate tabular beads are very similar to Mesopotamian third millennium beads, 2.8 - 3.5 centimeters long, 0.6 - 0.9 centimeters thick. Courtesy of Anahita Gallery and J. Lafortune, 1978. Two lowest beads are new replica tabular agate and leech beads from Iran and Cambay, 0.6 - 1.0 centimeters thick; Courtesy of W. Seifried, 2006 and Beadazzled/Kamol, 1999. Due to better lapidary equipment, especially drills, many replica beads are now thinner than the prototypes. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament; shot with studio strobes, using softboxes for both transillumination/reflected lighting or just reflective lighting when shooting on black Tufflock. 

Recently we relocated our office of the past twenty-six years into a much more manageable space. This entailed examining, sorting and discarding old files, as well as other material collected over forty-two years of publishing. While packing our study bead collections, I was struck again by the beauty of ancient hard stone beads, the lapidary skills of their makers, and how skilled contemporary stone beadmakers had become in producing imitations, replicas or their own designs. Such observations and insights are very similar to the pleasure of re-discovering books in your library that you have not read for years.

      I have always regarded tabular hard stone beads of the third millennium as among the most aesthetic uses of stone, as well as so-called leech beads, which can date as early as 2200 to about 300 B.C. (Liu 1999). If one is cognizant of bead history and technology, the roles of stone beads in ancient world trade and exchange, then the importance of simulations would be readily apparent...

 

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  Complete Article


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. In this issue Liu writes about the Ethnic Costume Museum in Beijing, which he visited with Carolyn and Patrick in 2013, on a return to China after sixty-seven years in the United States. While going through the recent move of the Ornament office, he restudied some ancient stone beads in its study bead collection, marveling at both the skill of ancient and contemporary stone beadmakers, especially those who did replicas or imitations.

Zhou Dynasty Glass Volume 38.4 Preview

Zhou Dynasty Glass and Silicate Jewelry

 

Since I began studying the faience, glass and other silicate ornaments of the Zhou Dynasty in 1975, this field has undergone a sharp dichotomy. While previously mostly foreign scientists or Chinese outside of China researched their chemical makeup, age and stylistics, in the past decades Chinese themselves have begun to intensively study their composition, through sophisticated non-destructive techniques like XRF and Raman spectroscopy, but with little attention to their typology, chronology or how they were made or used, despite the enormous increase in number of excavated sites bearing such beads (Gan 2009; Kwan 2001, 2013; Lankton and Dussubieux 2006, 2013; Li et al., 2015; Liu 1975, 1991, 2005, 2013; Yang et al., 2013; Zhu 2013). Now regarded as important cultural relics, beads of the Zhou/Han times were widely sold since at least the 1990s on the world antiquities markets, often sourced by looting, and which are still available (Murphy 1995; Liu 1996-1997).

      Faience, composite silicates and glass came late to China, lagging behind the Near East; faience about 1000 B.C. and composite silicates, frit and glass in the Spring and Autumn/Warring States (W.S.) periods of the Zhou dynasty. By then, bronze and stone industries were well established, with the former using sophisticated piece-mold and core-casting, while the latter employed similarly advanced lapidary technology. Even in the 1970s, I realized that these early Chinese glassworkers had adapted some of these same techniques for fabricating their glass ornaments, as seen in mold-cast, press-molded and lapidary-finished Zhou and Han glass artifacts. My own research on composite beads also implicates the role of early ceramics.

 

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Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. His new 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. In this issue he writes about the extraordinary crafting of Zhou Dynasty/Warring States faience, glass and other silicate ornaments, as well as their complexity.

Intact Ancient Precolumbian Jewelry Volume 38.1

Intact Ancient Jewelry. Precolumbian Ingenuity

INTACT PRECOLUMBIAN NORTH COAST PERUVIAN NECKLACE AND BRACELETS of mother-of-pearl (MOP) components, mostly likely strung on cotton cord; probably of middle horizon Wari influence, circa A.D. 700 - 1000. Intact bracelets are 1.7 centimeters wide, while the necklace, in four fragments, is 28.4 centimeters wide as laid out for photography. The MOP elements are probably from Pacific black-lipped oysters that occur off Ecuador and thus are an imported luxury material. Ex-Jean Lions collection, obtained before 1980; Robert Duff collection since 2007. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.

Strung ancient jewelry is rarely found intact, unless climatic conditions or well-protected burials prevent the rotting of the organic fibers used in assembling the jewelry. Two geographic regions, parts of the Middle East, especially Egypt, and the arid north coast of Peru are known to yield finds of intact jewelry, as well as the prehistoric American Southwest and northern Mexico (Liu 2008). The most spectacular of such finds is the faience broadcollar of Wah (Liu 2005: 57) but much intact precolumbian jewelry, especially necklaces or their fragments (Gessler 1988; Liu 2008) come from the north coast of Peru. In this article, I show some amazing Wari jewelry, that may date to circa A.D. 700 - 1000, which is strung in ways not usually employed in assembling beads/components into necklaces and are among the most intact precolumbian jewelry I have seen. In fact, the ingenious ways employed by ancient Peruvians to string jewelry may very well make us re-think how necklace components can be used, not-considered by either modern necklace designers nor archaeologists.

Peruvian precolumbian jewelry can be massive, as in the beaded pectorals of Moche royalty at Sipan, measuring sixty centimeters wide (Donnan 1993), or can have large individual elements, as in the inlaid shell components of Tiahuanaco-Wari necklaces (Gessler 1988: 50-51). However, most intact jewelry fragments I have seen are modest in scale and not complex, except possibly in their construction, sometimes involving braiding (Gessler 1988). The fragments of the Wari influenced necklace differ in both the delicacy of their components and in the intricacy of how these elements were assembled with cord. Just like how ancient Peruvian beaders at Chancay employed simple disk beads as spacers, as well as real spacers with multiple perforations (Liu 2008: 52), I do not think contemporary necklace designers, with our linear thinking, would have been able to put together this necklace like their original stringers did some one thousand to thirteen hundred years ago, using the ingenuity of stringing via grooves or knotting together thin elements into broader masses.

WARI MOTHER-OF-PEARL CARVED/INLAID BIRD COMPONENTS AND STAIRCASE SPONDYLUS AND MOP NECKLACE ELEMENTS, OBVERSE AND REVERSE; all these beads have two perforations and are drilled on the reverse side with edge perforations, except at one narrow end of the staircase beads. This type of drilling is easier than trying to drill through such thin pieces of material. Staircase elements are approximately 1.6 centimeters wide while the bird beads are 1.3 to 1.6 centimeters wide, with the latter having inlaid spondylus or turquoise eyes. The staircase strand stringing is contemporary but the method is ancient, as the same use of edge perforations is seen in an intact strand fragment (Liu 2008: 51). Most modern necklace makers would not want to have exposed thread showing on the reverse side, subject possibly to the most wear.

DETAILS OF WARI INFLUENCE NECKLACE, showing unique ways of stringing; note spun cotton cord has multiple threads. If all these elements were loose, most likely no modern restorer would have deduced how they were used, especially the way the x-shaped components are tied to either the drilled bars or to the drilled or zig-zag vertical elements. The vertically-oriented elements are strung like the two intact bracelets, by the cord being wound around the end grooves. They differ in that there is no knot in-between the bracelet elements, as there is in the necklace. The closeup at the bottom of the page is approximately 60.1 centimeters wide. The practice of knotting in-between elements can be seen in many portions of the necklace fragments, like contemporary pearls are treated. Note on facing page how this very delicate necklace has very different designs on the front and back portions. This delicacy of structure and stringing contrasts greatly with intact prehistoric Southwest jewelry (Liu 2009, 2011).

 

Nubian Face Beads Preview 37.5

PREVIEW

Robert K. Liu, spurred on by last issue’s article “Gold and the Gods, Jewels of Ancient Nubia,” has researched Nubian mosaic tabular face beads and presents his findings on the unique tabular beads and what they might mean for ancient glassbeadmaking. Virtually all mosaic face beads of antiquity were of two types; a representation of Medusa as a Gorgon, and of Medusa as a woman. Originally thought to be different canes, the Nubian mosaic face beads suggest that one cane, that of Medusa as Gorgon, was used to make both types of beads.

Kiff Slemmons Volume 37.5

Framed by silver bezels darkened to resemble wrought iron or blue steel, exquisitely knapped stone projectile points serve as tacit evidence that the drive to perfect technologies is hardly exclusive to the modern age. In Kiff Slemmons’s most recent work a respect not only for the skills of ancient artisans but also, and more important, for the adherence of those artisans to the highest of aspirations for their craft makes what might have been mere whimsical appropriation a moving reflection on some of the most praiseworthy facets of human nature. The series pays homage to ingenuity and adroitness, but more significantly it gives due recognition to the value of human patience and persistence: specifically, the dogged determination to achieve perfection that has invigorated human endeavor since the days when life truly was nasty, brutish and short. By giving a prominent place in her pendants to ancient stone artifacts and restraining her contributions to a complementary status, Slemmons is clearly less intent on emphasizing her own mastery of materials than on asserting that humans have always sought a better way—a more efficient technology and a more pleasing aesthetic—even millennia ago when their efforts were by necessity directed principally to the task of staying alive.

Through her use of ancient objects Slemmons courts controversy in this period of heightened concern for preserving cultural patrimony, but her practice is not without substantial precedent in the long history of jewelrymaking. The earliest people to recycle antiquities were the ancients themselves, who in their wanderings through the campsites, burial grounds and ruined cities of their forebears scavenged bits of the past to employ as tools, wear as ornaments, or simply marvel over as incontrovertible evidence that the present was not allencompassing. How many Egyptians over the millennia between the Old Kingdom and the New donned ancient amulets lifted from the shifting sands at Saqqara or extracted from the silt of the Nile after the annual flood? In the Americas, the Aztecs, in awe of the vast deserted architecture of Teotihuacán, made pendants of the figurine fragments they discovered in that crumbling city’s empty plazas, and in Europe the stylish set during the Renaissance repurposed ancient Roman seals and cameos as gems in their rings and necklaces. In these and countless other instances across human history the reuse of antiquities as adornments was clearly more than expedient. In the most interesting cases it might even be said to reflect a psychological imperative to wrestle with some of the most fundamental questions about human identity.

Caches excavated at archaeological sites around the world suggest that ceremony may indeed have been part of the purpose of some ancient stone points, but those in Slemmons’s pendants, found by Tuareg nomads after strong Saharan winds exposed them, can give no clue as to their former contexts.

 
DOUBLE AX KIT double-sided pendants of silver, stone, Eskimo tool fragments, 10.80 x 8.26 centimeters.

DOUBLE AX KIT double-sided pendants of silver, stone, Eskimo tool fragments, 10.80 x 8.26 centimeters.

 Prior to the mid-1980s and the passage of laws against exportation of antiquities by nations such as Mali, Niger and Algeria hundreds of thousands of Neolithic Saharan artifacts were gathered by tribesmen and sold to local suppliers of galleries and auction houses in Europe and the United States. At no stage in this process of dispersion were records of origin kept, and little thought was given to the effects of the market on the cultural inheritance of North African nations and the connection between contemporary Saharan peoples and their ancient predecessors. For Slemmons these objects without context have lost something valuable that, though not restorable, might at least be partly replaced. “I have a real respect for these things,” she asserts, “and I wanted to reinvigorate them by putting them in this other context. In a way I think of this as a kind of offering. We don’t honor our ancestors much these days. Everything is about what is new and now. I’m looking backwards in a sense.”

SECATEUR of silver, stone, bone, rusted can lid, 7.62 x 8.89 centimeters.

SECATEUR of silver, stone, bone, rusted can lid, 7.62 x 8.89 centimeters.

For Slemmons, integration of Neolithic stonework into jewelry was a natural extension of the found-object use that had characterized her work from its earliest phase, but at the same time it constituted something of a departure from that practice, since not all found objects are of the same class. Age and rarity make the projectile points substantially different from pencil stubs that one might find at the back of a drawer, but more important the Neolithic points bear evidence of attitudes about tools and making that seem fundamentally different from those conveyed by a sharpened pencil. “I decided that these were another kind of found material,” Slemmons explains. “I was taken with the points themselves, the refinement in making them, and the fact that they were handmade things. They were tools but you couldn’t help but see that they had slipped over into something else, that when the makers were making them they saw them as beautiful in some way, so they kept them and didn’t use them. They were tools made by hand that at some point slipped partly from necessity to ceremony.”

The retrospection embodied by Slemmons’s new series is really twofold, since it is as much about looking back over her own career as about prying secrets of the early days of human history from the craftsmanship exhibited by ancient stone tools. Her recent pendants are in some respects similar to pieces that she made at the outset of her career forty-five years ago. Not only did some of those early examples incorporate ancient stone beads from Mexico but they also made use of simple bezels fashioned with the same set of hand tools that grace her bench today. The technical similarities between past and present work were unintentional, and when she first noted them they gave her pause. “In some ways I was distressed to find that I seemed to be making things similar to when I first started,” she admits, “but I tried not to linger on that too long. I have to do what has some energy for me. There are many people who can make much better products, but I have never been concerned about showing off techniques in metal. My progression has been more about the flow of ideas.”

CUTTING EDGES of silver and stone, 10.80 x 5.08 centimeters.

CUTTING EDGES of silver and stone, 10.80 x 5.08 centimeters.

In that respect Slemmons’s recent pendants have their closest connections to bodies of work produced for the exhibitions “Cuts and Repose” (1998) and “Re:Pair and Imperfection” (2004-5). The former involved integrating into jewelry images of hands cut from antique black-and-white photographs of unidentified individuals: found-objects that like anonymous Neolithic stone tools emphasized the absence of people whose personalities, familial connections, achievements in diplomacy, war, intellectual pursuits or athletics, social standing, hopes, and fears—nearly everything that made them unique in the world—had been lost in the passage of time. After some initial deliberation about cutting up the photographs, which had once been treasured mementos displayed on mantelpieces or preserved in family albums, Slemmons concluded that the opportunity to reinvest them with meaning in the present outweighed what little value they possessed as decontextualized and anonymous documents of the past. She recalls, “When I realized that their preciousness depended on their identity and that this identity had already been lost, abandoned, the possibility for a new presence eased my reluctance and I began to look at the hands to see what they said.”

 
STONES AND WHORLS neckpiece of silver, Guatemalan clay spindles, stone, 30.48 x 16.51 x 1.27 centimeters.

STONES AND WHORLS neckpiece of silver, Guatemalan clay spindles, stone, 30.48 x 16.51 x 1.27 centimeters.

As historical records, Neolithic stone points share some important characteristics with the found-object photographs in “Cuts and Repose,” but they differ in that their representation of anonymous hands from the past is not pictorial but rather indexical: in other words they refer to hands through the physical evidence of work. As handiwork they have entered Slemmons’s pendants less through appropriation than through collaboration. To some degree this act recalls pieces that Slemmons produced a decade ago for the Re:Pair and Imperfection series, which began with solicitation of damaged or unfinished parts from dozens of well-known jewelers and metalsmiths and ended with the production of works of jewelry in which contributing artists’ elements were complemented by a kind of framing or contextualizing on Slemmons’s part. This kind of collaboration differs fundamentally from that of such modernist examples as Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed, which implicitly emphasized the triumph of painterly expression over an anonymous hand-stitched quilt, or Erased De Kooning drawing, in which the erasure of a sketch simultaneously displaced the presence of one prominent artist while asserting the negating powers of another. Slemmons found-object collaborations are equally distinct from the appropriationist strategies of deconstructive postmodernism in the 1980s and 1990s, in which the presence of artists was not so much erased as dismissed from the outset as a mere intellectual construct.


Slemmons’s frequent use of the word “respect” when describing her affinity for prehistoric artifacts suggests that in her recent series of pendants, as in the earlier Re:Pair and Imperfection works, the collaborative process has more in common with the reverent recycling of artifacts by the Aztecs than with contemporary polemics over such concepts as originality, representation, or presence. “I’m arguing for the physicality of these things,” she says of the Neolithic points. “They were made by the hand and used in the hand, and the connection with the hand matters to me. I’m continuously attracted by the power of small things. I’m not saying that we need to go back to making things by hand, but I think that there’s a respect for handmade things that we might be losing.”

VERSATILITY of silver, stone points and spoon, hinged allowing different positions when worn (like folding knives), 5.08 x 6.35 centimeters.

VERSATILITY of silver, stone points and spoon, hinged allowing different positions when worn (like folding knives), 5.08 x 6.35 centimeters.

While the stone points were small enough to fit in the hand, worked with such finesse as to recall sophisticated forms of decorative art, and free of any chips that would indicate actual use in the field, Slemmons could not overlook the fact that their intended purpose was to kill. Ultimately, her attempts to reconcile this realization with her attraction to the objects as historical embodiments of early human achievement in technology, and even a form of art, would affect the compositions into which she integrated them. Regarding them abstractly as implements for cutting, she began thinking of ways “to repurpose them as other kinds of tools.” Positioned as blades of shears, snips, and saws, axe heads, and even an abalone shucker, the points are integrated into Slemmons’s pendants in such a way that they retain their original identities but gain conceptual value from their reemployment in representations of tools. As objects functioning only in an imagistic and ornamental sense, the tool-pendants become frames that encourage the viewer to consider the Neolithic stone points as Slemmons sees them: not merely as ancient objects intended for the hunt but also, and more important, as reflections of a discerning sense of the aesthetics inherent in highly refined utilitarian form.

There is often an undeniable beauty to parts of functional objects intended for killing—the intricately etched steel blade of a saber, or the sleek, blue-gray barrel of a firearm, for instance. For Slemmons, this quality in the Neolithic artifacts was to some degree disturbing, but she recognized that it could be contextualized to elicit more positive associations. “I was thinking about the killing of animals for food and survival and linking survival with ceremony,” she explains. “I thought of serving up the work like a feast in some way, an ancestral feast.” Consequently, some of the tool-pendants took the form of place settings in which more mundane utensils became, for example, a silver spoon with a corner-notched projectile point embedded at the junction of bowl and neck, a knife with a leaf-shaped Neolithic point for a blade, and a fork with trident-like tines fashioned from a trio of contracting-stemmed triangular stone points. These evocative utensil-pendants have proved to display effectively, both visually and conceptually, alongside handmade paper bowls, products of Slemmons’s recent experiences with craftspeople in Oaxaca, Mexico. What, after all, could be more appropriate for work that is implicitly collaborative with anonymous ancient ancestors than the context of a table reverently set for a convention of artists in absentia?