Historic Jewellery talks but you have to listen carefully – part 1
I love to go to museums. Take my camera with me and be surprised by old ancient peoples and the remains of their culture. Jewellery is often one of the high-lights of a show. Made of gold and precious stones it survives all time.
People were attracted to it then and people are attracted to it now.
Just like me.
Pinterest gives me a chance to find jewels on places I haven’t been. This lion-headed lapiz lazuli pendant is one that I would love to see in person. But alas, it’s in the National Museum of Damascus, Syria. Not somewhere where I could travel to.
There are 3 reasons why I am attracted to this gorgeous lion-headed pendant:
- It comes from Mesopotamian, a culture which legacy is the invention of writing. They produced the oldest (found) epic poetry: the Epic of Gilgamesh.
The middle piece of my Epic River necklace contains a small piece of the Gilgamesh written in cuneiform.
- Then there was a similarity of shape with my pendant “take flight”.
- I was also intrigued by a creature existing of 3 animals: A bird (air) a lion (fire) and a fish (water). I sensed a symbolism that I wanted to research further.
While doing my stroll on the internet I found these facts:
- The materials: Gold layers onto a tar base and Lapis Lazuli, a blue precious stone. Size H. 11.8 cm. W. 13 cm.
- In 1965 the pendant was found in Mari – Syria, during excavations in the Royal Palace of Zimri-lim.
- Dating of the piece is somewhere around 2500BC.
So it has been hidden for 4500 years!
- It was excavated with a Lapis Lazuli bead with an inscription that reveals about the connection with the kingdom of Ur, another big city in that time. “dedication from god Gal-Mesannipadda, King of the City of Ur to Cansud, King of Mari“
- In 2500BC Mari was a big city on the riverbanks of the Euphrates and a commercial logistic centre. It controlled the caravan route and got rich from the tolls.
This is interesting: the king of Ur wants to give a gift to a king who is important because he guards the trade-route along the Euphrates. The king of Ur can’t go to Mari to show respect so the gift must represents this to his collegue.
Using the analogy’s of powerful animals to express a meaning is very common for nature oriented peoples. They still stand close to everything that lives around them. Let’s unravel which animals they used and what these symbols could mean:
- A lion is king of animals, strong and passionate, a fire sign. A king is also head of his people.
- Birds are animals of transformation they connect heaven and earth. With wings you are not bound to the earthly physical state you are. You are above mankind. It could be that the King of Ur wants to refer to the godly state kings have in that time.
- The gold fishtail puzzled me a bit but drawing on the fact it’s a water sign and Mari & Ur are along the Euphrates, I guess it expresses the connection between the cities.
Fact is that there is a cuneiform tablet that tells about Anzud a giant bird with lion head and connected to the god Ningurso. The image of a lion-headed eagle must have ment more to them. It’s part of their mythology.
So the king goes to his goldsmith and explains the situation. Together they decide it has to be made with the most precious materials: Gold and Lapis Lazuli, the heavenly blue stone.
The goldsmith, inspired by the symbols, carves wings out of Lapis, sculpts a lion head and a fish tail out of tar. Then covers it with many layers of gold. The cylinder shaped Lapis Lazuli bead is inscribed with the dedication. Together they are sent with a caravan to the Northern city Mari as thoughtful gift for the king Cansud.
A gift worth giving.