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Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
Middle Kingdom Jewelry

Gracious taste, arresting design, and technical mastery of materials characterize Middle Kingdom jewelry.

Jewelers elevated their craft to a level of artistic accomplishment unrivaled in Egyptian history. They refrained from excess, choosing simple, clean forms and understated color patterns. For instance, unlike flamboyant examples from the later New Kingdom, Middle Kingdom necklaces were usually monochromatic and almost never included beads of more than three colors. The most expensive jewelry featured beads made of gold; because it never tarnishes, gold was called the “flesh of the gods” and conveyed immortality.

Jewelers of the Middle Kingdom also relied on certain attractive semiprecious stones that had appeared only sporadically in the Old Kingdom. Red carnelian represented blood’s life-giving properties, and green turquoise symbolized vegetation and fertility and thus resurrection. Purple amethyst and pale blue anhydrite, however, seem to have had no magical powers and were admired solely for their visual appeal.
MEDIUM Amethyst, stone, faience
  • Place Excavated: Abydos, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1938-1759 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 12
    PERIOD Middle Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 24 in. (61 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Egypt Exploration Society
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Necklace, ca. 1938-1759 B.C.E. Amethyst, stone, faience, 24 in. (61 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Egypt Exploration Society , 26.46. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , CUR.26.46_26.159_erg2.jpg)
    IMAGE group, CUR.26.46_26.159_erg2.jpg.
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION String of amethysts, ovoid shape graduated beads. At the center of the necklace between the largest beads are four amulets apparently in the form of falcons. Each end of the necklace is finished off with one round black bead and one green faience bead. The workmanship is good and the necklace is a very beautiful specimen. Condition, various slight chips.
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