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Ancient Anatolian Jewellery

In the Neolithic age, when a wandering life of hunting and gathering made way for settled communities, the people of Anatolia began to place burial gifts in graves. These gifts included necklaces, bracelets and rings made of diverse stones, teeth, horns and bones of animals, and seashells. The earliest Anatolian jewellery, dating from between 7000 and 5000 BC, has been found in excavations of cayonu in Diyarbakir, and catalhoyuk, Asiklar Hoyuk and Kosk Hoyuk in central Anatolia. Jewellery made of precious metals begins in the 4th millennium BC, although very few examples from this period have been discovered. By the 3rd millennium BC, however, skilfully cra

fted metal jewellery was being produced, and that made of gold found in tombs at Eskiyapar and Alacahoyuk in central Anatolia dating from 2600-2000 BC is exquisite both in design and technique. Jewellery made by the Hittites, who established a powerful empire in Anatolia in the 2nd millennium BC, also shows great sophistication, although examples are too scarce to make any generalizations about its characteristics. Finds dating from the 7th century BC, however, are more numerous, particularly in western Anatolia. At this period city-states founded by Hellenic Anatolian peoples ruled the Aegean coast, while the inland areas were under Lydian domination. The Lydian capital of Sardis was the main centre of gold jewellery production. Jewellery dating from the 7th and 6th centuries BC has been found in the votive pit at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, and in tumuli in the province of Usak. The Ephesian Artemis evolved from the Anatolian mother goddess, a universal deity who was a guardian of civilization, ruler over nature, and queen of bees. She represented three aspects of womanhood: virginity, the married woman and motherhood. This trinity is symbolized in jewellery by the use of motifs like rosettes and double-headed axes in triplicate.

The most frequently used emblems of the mother goddess are the bee, the crescent and the sparrow hawk. Bees often feature on earrings, brooches, and the finials of pins. The crescent, representing Artemis as goddess of the moon, appears as crescent-shaped earrings and pendants. Sparrow hawks, often found on brooches and pendants, symbolise the goddess’s power over nature, and plant motifs represent fertility. Granulation is the most common decorative technique on jewellery of this period. Jewellery made in the Aegean coastal region was mainly worn by women, the men wearing only rings or sometimes wreaths. In Lydia, however, where the influence of eastern cultures was stronger, men worn jewellery to a much greater extent. From 500 BC onwards, Anatolian cultures absorbed many aspects of Persian art, giving rise to a characteristic style known as Anatolian Persian.

Large quantities of jewellery found in tombs near Sardis and Usak provide a detailed picture of this period of Persian domination. Since the costume of the period had changed, pins and fibulas were no longer made. Instead we find earrings, necklaces and pendants, bracelets, rings, buckles and ornaments for clothing. During this period the use of semi-precious stones and glass imitations of these became widespread, and hence jewellery much more colourful. Two main centres of jewellery production stand out during this period. One was Sardis, where fine jewellery had been produced since Lydian times, and the other Lampsakos (the modern Lapseki) on the Strait of canakkale. Triangles and lozenges are forms characteristic of this period. The monotheist Zoroastrian faith of the Persians featured a trinity consisting of Anahita, the world mother, Ahura Mazda, representing light and righteousness, and Ahirman representing the force of evil, and it may be that the triangle was a symbol of these three aspects of divinity.

Necklaces often combined beads in various forms relating to fertility, such as pomegranates and sea snails. Decorative metal work techniques were filigree and granulation, the former being found from the 4th century BC onwards. When Alexander the Great overthrew the Persian state in 330 BC, and carried his conquests as far as India, the resulting synthesis of traditional Aegean and eastern cultures is referred to as Hellenistic. During this period we find new features, such as earrings with animal motifs and mythological figures, resulting from the modification of Persian elements by Hellenic traditions and tastes. The principal centres of production at this time were Lampsakos, and subsequently Antioch and Alexandria. The new motifs, which appear at this time, include the knot of Heracles and Isis or Hathor (two Egyptian goddesses who are sometimes identified). But it was Aphrodite, goddess of love that jewellery symbolized most often; sometimes in the form of Eros, and sometimes by doves or myrtle, the sacred tree of the goddess. Other plants held sacred by association with various deities are the oak of Zeus, the bay of Apollo, the vine of Dionysus and the olive of Athena. Under eastern influence the use of semi-precious stones begins at this time, leading to a new diversity in jewellery. As well as earrings, wreaths and diadems, hairpins, necklaces, bracelets and rings, we now find such new types as breast ornaments and hair nets.

Declining prosperity from the mid-2nd century BC became even more marked in the 1st century BC, and economic difficulties led to a demand for less costly jewellery. At this time Anatolia became part of the Roman Empire, and the precious and magnificent jewellery of the Roman period was produced not in the provinces but in Rome. Earrings and rings of very diverse types were made in the Roman period, and necklaces and rings often incorporated coins or medallions representing the emperors. Medallion pendants bearing mythological designs are also typical of the period, as are head and hair ornaments. During the Byzantine period jewellery production in other cities ceased, as Constantinople became the sole centre for jewellers and goldsmiths.



* Yildiz Akyay Mericboyu is an archaeologist

Source: Skylife 07/2001