How in 300-100 BCE were they able to mould gold so intricately?
That's such a fragile and beautiful object! There were craftspeople dedicated to very specific materials and tasks -- they would create the finest objects for the royal courts and other elite individuals. Gold specifically, is a relatively soft metal and therefore pretty easy to work with/shape. These pieces of gold are beaten into such thin surfaces -- truly amazing craftsmanship.
What material was used to make this?
This Funerary Wreath is made of gold which was highly valued for its beauty in the Ancient World much like it is today. This wreath is styled after Greek laurels which represents the multicultural nature of Ancient Egyptian society.
Was gold considered as precious a metal as it is today?
Basically yes, this would have been a luxury object owned by a wealthy person in ancient Egypt. Gold was not the rarest or most valuable metal in Ancient Egypt, but it was certainly precious.
Many of the objects you see in the Egyptian galleries would have been made for and owned by the wealthy because their elaborate tombs preserved the objects that survive through to today. Objects made of metals and stone were some of the most precious as they required a high level of craftsmanship.
Where are the other wreaths?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan has one. Theirs is looks more like ivy. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has another that resembles laurel.
We were wondering how this survived! It seems so delicate. Where was it found? Did it need restoration?
Gold is a pretty resilient material: it doesn’t tarnish and it’s quite soft so it can bend without breaking. It was actually fairly flattened and scrunched up
when the museum received it, and required some conservation to put it back in shape.
Gold was highly valued for its beauty in the Ancient World much like it is today. This wreath is styled after Greek laurels which represents the multicultural nature of Ancient Egyptian society. If you look across the gallery you'll notice a portrait of a young man wearing a similar laurel. We're not sure exactly where the wreath was found; it came to the Museum from George D. Pratt in 1926.
Can you tell me about this wreath?
Several different types of wreaths were made in ancient Greece using different plants.
The plant depicted here may be the laurel, which was associated with the Greek god Apollo.
While in life, the wreath a person would wear was likely made from actual plants and flowers, the golden versions were probably worn during funerals.
Can you tell me a little bit about this?
Oh that wreath is one of my favorites! It was created for funerary purposes, and is one of four like it surviving today. As you can imagine, the gold leaves on this wreath are thin enough that they bend quite easily. When the museum received it, it was crumpled up and required some care to be brought back to its original shape.
The wreath is actually one of the few Greek items in the gallery, and comes form the Hellenistic period in ancient Greece, around the 3rd or 2nd century BCE. Do you see the flowers among the leaves?
Yes, thank you!
The flowers suggest the plant the wreath is meant to be is laurel. Laurel was associated with the Greek god Apollo.
This may be the shiniest object in the museum! Is there a story of how it was acquired?
This piece came to the museum from George D. Pratt in 1926. We are not sure where it was found and required some conservation to restore the object to its proper shape.
The wreath likely come from a funerary context.
Interesting. We were imagining this being worn to lavish dinner parties in Alexandria.
It's easy to picture because it's so fancy but because it is SO delicate it likely wouldn't have withstood everyday use. Also, other similar wreaths found in archaeological contexts suggest that is was likely made for some funerary purpose. Lavish dinner parties in the afterlife perhaps?
Is this real gold?
That is real gold, yes! Gold is very malleable and does not tarnish meaning that it can survive the test of time very well.
Who would generally make these wreaths?
The wreaths were likely made by an artisan, a worker in a skilled trade that usually involves making things by hand. In this case, someone who specialized in gold-work. During this time, the identity of the person who makes objects wasn't as significant as it is today.
We were very curious about the weight of this gold wreath - wouldn't it be too heavy to wear on one's head?
I don’t have the exact weight in my notes, but this wreath is actually relatively light. First, the gold is pounded very thin. You can see how delicate the whole wreath is. So that would make it lighter.
Also, look at all the empty space around the leaves. It is not very solid. It is also worth mentioning that a wreath like this would only have been worn for special occasions, perhaps only even burial.
What is this? It says it's a wreath.
A wreath like this was designed to be placed on someone’s head as a symbol of victory.
This one likely served as an ornament in someone's tomb.