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Ancient Mesopotamia Jewelry: How It Was in Different Regions

28.07.2021
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Ancient Mesopotamia Jewelry

“The homeland of human civilization” – Mesopotamia, is one of the first places on the planet where the development of religion, science, and universal knowledge allowed humanity to leave the stone ages and start the modern era.

With the development and diffusion of technological knowledge and the rise of the nobility, the human need for art and the demonstration of power and religious affiliation gave rise to a growing and progressive tradition of making art jewelry.

The Mesopotamian culture, which settled around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, first began to pay attention to jewelry about 4000 years ago. In the beginning, this took place in the cities of Sumer and Akkad, where attention to this craft was sharpened. Today we will tell you about ancient Mesopotamian jewelry, namely what they looked like and what techniques were used.

Sumerians Jewelry

Sumerians Jewelry

About 2500 BC the Sumerian city of Ur developed into a civilization with luxurious and rich court life. As a rule, the rulers were buried in full attire, even the servants and soldiers were not an exception. It is from these royal tombs we can learn about the types of valuables and their use.

As a rule, gold and silver were often used in Sumerian products, which were imported from the mines of modern Iran and Turkey. Lapis lazuli was obtained from Afghanistan and carnelian from India. All this testifies to the extensive trade that took place at this time. Bright and colored materials were also often used, from which they created necklaces, valuable on clothes, and headdresses.

The Sumerian master jewelers were the first to apply techniques such as filigree and granulation. As you can see from the exhibits that were on display in the British Museum, the favorite combinations were blue-yellow-red; a combination of gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian. First, beads were made from the materials, and then they have strung alternately.

Several objects were also found in the graves of prominent Sumerians, displaying gold objects with precious stone inlay. The found chains, made using the loop and filigree method, testify to the skills of creating and using gold wire by Sumerian jewelers.

Men wore mainly necklaces, bracelets, earrings, breast ornaments, and headbands with a gold chain on the back, which served as a clasp on the headdress. As for women, the choice of jewelry for them was much wider. They often wore huge crescent-shaped earrings or golden headdresses in the form of flowers and foliage.

Assyrian Jewelry

Assyrian Jewelry

The treasures of Nimrud or Nineveh (modern Mosul in Iraq), discovered in 1988 by Iraqi archaeologists, are considered the classic representatives of the jewelry architecture of Ancient Assyria. The found tomb belongs to the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II. It contained 450 pieces of valuable gold and silver, with a total weight of 22.5 kilograms – in terms of their importance and wealth, equal to the treasures of Tutankhamun.

Jewelry was worn by both men and women of ancient Mesopotamia. The most common were: multi-strand beads made of carnelian and lapis lazuli, gold earrings, hairbands made of fine gold, anklets, silver hair rings, filigree medallion pendants, signet rings, and amulets. Popular decoration motifs were leaves and branches, bunches of grapes, cones, and spiral patterns.

Valuables were made both for use in everyday life and for decorating images of deities, the harness of horses and other animals, etc. Products served as a symbol of status, as gifts to people and deities, methods of payment, instruments of diplomatic relations, were placed in the tombs of the dead for use in the afterlife.

It is worth noting that the ancient Assyrians were among the first to create jewelry from hollow gold – due to this technique, bulky products became practical and not burdensome to wear, but at the same time, more fragile and difficult to care for.

Babylonian Jewelry

Babylonian Jewelry

Assyria-Babylonians loved luxurious valuables. Gold and silver were brought from northern Asia, precious stones and pearls were brought from India. Jewelry art in Babylonia was developed well, and the population did not experience a shortage of valuables. The nobles wore diadems, rings, and earrings of the most varied forms, bracelets on the wrists and above the elbow. At first, the bracelets were in the form of a spiral hoop, often decorated with an animal head; later they were made in the form of flat wide rings.

They did not wear jewelry on the neck and chest, but sometimes they wore a string with a cylinder made of jasper or chalcedony around the neck, which served as a seal. Pearl necklaces worn by the king, dignitaries, or priests were not ordinary jewelry but played the role of a symbolic sign of dignity.

Jewelry business was not limited to the central regions of Mesopotamia. It embraced the entire ancient kingdom – from Assyria to Babylonian cities. Since most valuable metals and gems did not exist on the territory of Mesopotamia (jasper, onyx, lapis lazuli, agate, and silver), residents and merchants brought them from Egypt, Anatolia, and Persia (modern Iran and Afghanistan). From the Indus Valley in India, 1,500 miles from the kingdom, specimens of rarer types of material were imported, such as lapis lazuli, ivory, carved carnelian beads, and even plants.

Due to their immense wealth, precious stones were used not only by the nobility and royal families but also by the general population. Almost everyone had something valuable and decorative. Perhaps the most popular valuables among men and women were hair rings, ankle bracelets, gold earrings, signet rings, amulets, and cylinder seals. There are quite a few motives that are valuable, and the longer you look at them, the more they fascinate. Due to the tradition of burying and transferring valuables to the afterlife, a lot of jewelry has survived to this day.

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