In class this week we discussed a few different kinds of material culture that set apart Neolithic Egypt from Predynastic Egypt. One of the most interesting kinds of material culture for me was the beads that were made out of rocks and the time and effort that were put into making them where as today it takes a matter of minutes. I decided to do a little more research on the types of jewels that they used and the techniques they had to turn these precious gems into wearable jewelry.
The first article I found talked about how the ancient Egyptians were believed to have made the beads seeing as they had no metals to drill with. Looking at two Badarian pendants, they discovered that the beads were made with flint drills and one in particular was made with a tubular drill. This showed the evolution of the bead making process. Many of the beads they found were made out of alabaster, carnelian, rock crystal, and garnet. “…Out of 569 Predynastic beads, 38% were of hard stone.” (pg. 125) The article goes on to say that this increased use of hard stone clearly shows the presence of social inequality beginning to emerge between the Badarian and Naqada periods as the drilling of hard stone was time consuming and expensive.
Beads, Scarabs, and Amulets: Methods of Manufacture in Ancient Egypt, A. John Gwinnett and L. Gorelick (http://www.jstor.org/stable/40000232?seq=4)
The next article I found went beyond the Predynastic periods that we have been talking about and elaborated on the significance of jewelry and certain kinds of beads in Egyptian culture as a whole. It turns out that beads were used by more than just the dead or to symbolize power, but also held religious significance and were sometimes even used to ward off evil. “Gem carvings known as “glyptic art” typically took the form of scarab beetles and other anthropomorphic religious symbols.” Once again the difficulty of drilling hard stone is discussed and an alternative is produced: polychrome glass. This glass was used to make beads and also as a glaze for pottery or other kinds of beads. Some of the most used kinds of soft gems were “Carnelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, malachite, rock crystal (quartz) and turquoise.” Finally the article relates Egypt other cultures by discussing the connection that the color blue has a symbol of royalty. This explains the extensive use of turquoise in Egyptian jewelry in the dynastic eras.
The History of Jewelry : Ancient Egyptian Jewelry Design, (http://www.allaboutgemstones.com/jewelry_history_egyptian.html)