A new research on silver bracelets discovered in the tomb of a 4th dynasty queen, Hetepheres I, showed that silver was imported from Greece 4,600 years ago. Lead isotope analysis narrowed down the silver source to the Cyclades, with the Lavrion mines in Attica being the second most likely place of origin.
Hetepheres I was the wife of the 4th dynasty pharaoh Snefru and the mother of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Her tomb was discovered at Giza in 1925 in the shadow of her son’s pyramid. Although her white alabaster sarcophagus was empty, probably having had its precious contents stolen, the tomb contained a wealth of grave goods, including gilded furniture, jewelry, gold vessels, and the oldest intact set of canopic canopies ever discovered in an ancient Egyptian tomb.
Perhaps Hetepheres’ most notable burial setting was found inside the remains of a wooden box covered with gold leaf. It contained a collection of 20 deben rings, ten bracelets that were worn on the arm. Some of them were fragmentary, but even with some corrosion and loss, the queen’s bracelets were, and still are, the largest collection of silver artifacts found from early Egypt. They were made of silver inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli and carnelian in the form of butterflies.
The style and materials of the inlay are Egyptian, but not silver. Old Kingdom silver is very rare. There are no silver ore deposits in Egypt, and silver artifacts do not appear in the archaeological record until the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1900 BC). The bracelets of Queen Hetepheres I testified to her great wealth and status.
One hundred years after the discovery, the bracelets were subjected to compositional, mineralogical, microscopic and isotopic analysis for the first time.
“The origin of silver, which was used to make artifacts in the third millennium, is still a mystery,” said Dr. Karin Sovada from Macquarie University’s Department of History and Archeology. “This new find demonstrates for the first time the potential geographic extent of the trading networks used by the Egyptian state during the early Old Kingdom period at the height of the pyramid building era.”
The silver was probably acquired through the port of Byblos on the coast of Lebanon and is the earliest evidence of a long distance exchange between Egypt and Greece.
The research team included leading scientists from France and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where several of the bracelets are located. Their analysis also revealed for the first time the working methods of early Egyptian silver.
“Specimens from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston have been analyzed and images obtained using a scanning electron microscope show that the bracelets were made by forging cold-worked metal with frequent annealing to prevent breakage,” said Professor Damian Gore of the Macquarie University School. natural sciences.
The findings were published in Journal of Archaeological Sciences: Reports and you can read Here.