Ancient Near East, Sumeria, Bronze Age, ca. 2nd millennium BCE. A collection of approximately 100 faience beads on a modern cord, all of varied form: some anthropomorphic, with human-like faces with prominent noses; some cylindrical, their surfaces scored; some elongated, with ribbed surfaces; some shaped like cogs or wheels, and some very small seed bead forms. All were at one time glazed, although only one of them retains its shiny glazed coloration now - a common result of the passage of time on faience beads and ornaments. Colors present from the underlying faience range from almost white to deep turquoise. Length of strand: 36" L (91.4 cm); size of largest bead: 0.6" W (1.5 cm)
Faience beads have been found in great quantities in excavations of ancient Mesopotamian cities - there is even a "bead layer" discovered at Ninevah containing thousands of them that is likely the result of the ruins of a bead workshop being washed into a drainage. The Uluburun shipwreck, discovered off the coast of southwestern Turkey in 1982, also had tens of thousands of beads in it, many of which were faience. Most of these seem to have been trade goods, with some representing the personal belongings of the ship's crew and passengers. Beads were worn by men and women during this time period, signifying social status and acting as amulets for protection.
Provenance: private Japanese collection, acquired in the early 1990s
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