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[Tidbits] Mesopotamian Jewelry

1300 B.C. Who was it that stood in highest regard in Ancient
Mesopotamian society? It was the barber … for it was considered a
sign of extreme personal neglect to allow one’s facial hairs to grow
willy nilly about one’s cheeks and chin and neck. Fact is … when one
died … one was shaved quite neatly in order to enter one’s grave in
a state of utter elegance. The concept of meeting one’s maker in a
disheveled manner clearly did not sit well with the social mores of
the times.

And if one entered one’s final resting place clean-shaven … did it
not stand to reason one would also enhance one’s appearance with fine
clothes … perfumed … and bejeweled? Going back as far as 30,000
B.C. the graves of both men and women have been found strewn with
jewelry … pendants and bracelets and necklaces.

Obsidian beads over 7000 years old were found in Iraq with holes
drilled through so fine that the mind is baffled even today at the
technology these ancient people used in order to accomplish this

From China to Afghanistan to the ancient Death Pits at Ur … beaded
jewelry pervaded a world where one strutted proudly amongst one’s
friends with the latest bauble about one’s neck. Hey … Sheherizad
… you like this beaded necklace Abdul gave me for my birthday? Such
a sweet man. He knows how to treat a lady.

Sadie and Mary and Yakhdun and Narimsin … they all wore beads.
Whatsa matter? You all thought beads were the product of a modern
age? Nay nay. Beads have been around awhile hunnie bunnies.

Mesopotamia … the land between the rivers … gave birth to much
beauty in the form of beaded jewelry and hammered gold. I have an
image of a representation of such a piece. Wanna see?

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Tidbits Graphics … and then click on the link that says:
Mesopotamia for a view of a classic portrayal of a time long gone

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

Alas Mark, it still has the little carved fellow and no beads.

marilyn smith

Hi Marilyn, Go back to the page that contains the image and hit the
"refresh" button. If the image I put up in week 2 is equal in bytes
to the image I had put up in week 1 then your browser will quite
often pull the page out of cache. It does not see the image. It only
calculates bytes. Let me know how it works out.

Benjamin Mark

Mark, I have tried reading your Tid-Bits, but I take accurate
history 'way too seriously. However, the word "Mesopotamian"
inspired me to read your latest, on Mesopotamian jewelry. I have
problems with it. For example:

Who was it that stood in highest regard in Ancient Mesopotamian
society? It was the barber… What is your reference for this
statement? In all my years of reading for my M.A. and Ph.D. in this
field, I have never run across such a statement. The entries in
the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary for “barber” (gallabu) don’t mention
anything like your following description about shaving. I can only
suspect that someone had read something like the Greek historian,
Herodotus, who claimed to have visited Babylonia but the accuracy
of whose descriptions of the Assyrians and Babylonians is very
difficult to assess.

The actual history of Mesopotamia and of its jewelry is much more
interesting. I enjoyed looking at your “Mesopotamian” necklace,
which was nice, except that it didn’t utilize carnelian, lapis
lazuli or colorful agates, which are typical of the Royal Cemetery
at Ur. It is my impression that black beads are rare in Sumerian
jewelry. (That doesn’t mean they had an antipathy to the concept
of “black” – the Sumerians’ name for themselves was, “the
black-headed people.”) However, I was disappointed that you added
to your necklace the statement that “the most important collections
are in the British Museum.” Not at all – as many artifacts are at
the University of Pennsylvania, from where an exhibit of those
artifacts has been going around this country since 1998 (see the
exhibit’s book, Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, edited by
Zettler and Horne).

Well, enough of that. I could add something about how very
inaccurate “history” got us into a recent and unnecessary war, but
in that direction lies Pandora’s Box.

Judy Bjorkman