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.
ca. 1938-1759 B.C.E.
Gift of the Egypt Exploration Society
Necklace of carnelian and blue-green faience. A round carnelian bead alternates with an ovoid faience bead. In the center of the necklace is an almost circular piece of carnelian. Excavated at Abydos in 1926 and found in a group of exceptionally fine beads.
Condition, center pellet chipped.
Necklace, ca. 1938-1759 B.C.E. Carnelian, faience, Length: 23 1/4 in. (59 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Egypt Exploration Society
, 26.161. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.26.161_erg2.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 10/21/2010
"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.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license
. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply.
Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact email@example.com
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.
How do they determine which beads comprised a necklace?
What material was used to string the beads originally?
How could an intact necklace survive 3700 years or more?
There's definitely a lot of guesswork, but intact burials might include a set of beads neatly arranged exactly as they were when they were strung. In excellent conditions, stringing does sometimes survive.
They were originally strung using plant fibers spun into string, like something from the papyrus or flax!
Ancient Egyptian tombs provide ideal conditions (dark and dry) for conservation. Its part of the same reason that we have Papyrus scrolls from so long ago which is made from similar, organic material.
Archaeologists use the information from these intact necklaces as well as depictions of necklaces in art to determine how to arrange loose beads they find.
I assumed they were all restrung.
The ones you photographed are, but there are some special cases in which they don't have to be!
Thank you so much!