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Jewellery and Personal adornments in the Old Kingdom (about 2686-2181 BC)

Jewellery is attested for men and women. There are two main sources for our knowledge of personal adornments in the Old Kingdom:

1. the tomb scenes and three dimensional sculpture showing people wearing personal adornments
2 the burials where jewellery were found in situ.

Depictions in art

Relief showing a man with a broad collar.
Jewellery was also a social marker. On this relief the tomb owner Usernetjer and his sons are shown with a broad collar. All other people - servants of the tomb owner - are shown without any jewellery.
The wife of Usernetjer is shown with a broad collar and a bracelet.

Examples of Old Kingdom jewellery

The evidence for jewellery from tombs is often slightly different from that from figurative art. The broad collar for example, common in art, was not very often found in tombs, perhaps because it is typical for the elite, whose tombs are most often disturbed. Necklaces are common in tombs; sometimes only a few beads were found most likely originally put together on a string. Among the great range of materials, faience was especially popular for beads.

(click on the pictures to see the context of the following examples)

Badari tomb 3191
Badari tomb 3202
Qau tomb 1089

In the Sixth Dynasty new types of jewellery were introduced. Amulets and button seals appear. Both have been found most often in tombs, and therefore it might be assumed that they were specifically made for burials. However, there are not many excavated settlement sites of the late Old Kingdom, and this distorts the picture. In fact there are some button seals from towns (compare Koptos), indicating that these objects were worn in daily life, and not exclusively for burial.

Button seal, found at Kafr Ammar in an intact burial, showing that this example was worn at the neck.
A very specific type of amulet found in tombs - common in the late Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period : objects showing a part of the body (head, hand, legs). They are most often found at the part of the body they represent.



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