Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
The Sumerian culture in Iraq, established in the third millennium b.c., was one of the world’s earliest civilizations. It reached a height of luxury known to us primarily through the elegantly crafted jewelry found in the tombs of its rulers. The ornaments exhibited here include two finger rings and two pairs of earrings in gold, and beads fashioned in gold and semiprecious stones. The beads have been restrung in modern times. Originally, they belonged to elaborate necklaces, which were often so large that their strands had to be held apart by separators. A separator on the smallest strand here consists of four attached tubes in gold (no. 3). The large round bead in lapis lazuli, with a gold cap, was the head of an ornamental pin in silver; traces of silver remain in the hole (no. 4).
ca. 2600-2500 B.C.E.
early Dynastic IIIA Period
Purchased with funds given by Shelby White
This item is not on view
Sumerian. Hoop Earring, ca. 2600-2500 B.C.E. Gold, Diam. 9/16 in. (1.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Shelby White, 1999.109.6. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 1999.109.6-.9_PS2.jpg)
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Where did the museum find this jewelry and how many people do you think wore them?
Like much of the finest ancient art, this jewelry likely comes from a Sumerian tomb. Pieces like these made of such precious materials would have belonged to elite--even royal--members of society. We don't know how many hands they may have passed through before being buried though.