26.08.2014

Author: Lungu Virgil

Gold Jewelry in the Collections of the Museum for National History and Archaeology Constanta

The jewelry objects discovered in Greek cities Histria, Callatis graveyards or in Roman fortresses along the Danube limes and in settlements inside the country are numerous and made of different materials: ceramics, mother-of-pearl, bone, bronze, iron, silver or gold. Many of them are kept in the collections of the Romanian National History Museum, others in the collection “Maria and Geoge Severeanu” of the Bucharest Municipal History Museum or in different private collections (older discoveries).
 
             From the jewelry objects in the collections of the Museum for National History and Archaeology Constanţa 488 gold pieces have been selected, presented as follows: “Vasile Canarache” collection – 4 pieces; jewelry from the inventory of a sarcophagus discovered in “Olimp” resort -Mangalia – 9 pieces; jewelry discovered in a tomb, in Tomis, from the 2nd cent. AD - 95 pieces. The following jewelry pieces, though also mainly coming from closed complexes (funerary inventories respectively), are presented as categories: earrings – 220 pieces; fingerings - 37 pieces; necklaces, little chains, pearls – 31 pieces; medallions – 25 pieces; 2 little crosses; 2 phylacteries, 2 hairpins; 1 little crown; 28 leaves and applications and 32 lip-shaped sheets, which were placed on the deceased’s mouth.
 
             All these objects not only show general prosperity, but especially the presence of a large production variety of real artistic level, even if the intrinsic value is relatively limited as regards some pieces dimensions or as regards the metal title.
 
             Another fact to be established with respect to gold jewelry objects discoveries is that in Pontic workshops almost all metal processing techniques were known: rolling, hammering, engraving, granulation, filigree, welding; the only one missing (or not yet discovered) is enameling.
 
             The most widespread jewelry is the common use one: earrings, fingerings and little chains – with or without pendants, bracelets and hairpins.
 
             Earrings are mostly link-shaped, simple or twisted, ending in a more or less intricately elaborated lion head during the Hellenistic epoch; an antelope, bicorn or ram head sometimes replaces it. 
 
             A pair of earrings with pendant, discovered in Callatis area (“Vasile Canarache” collection) is worth a special attention. Each earring is made of a little concave rosette shaped disk, with very fine granulation, fastened by a link to an oval basis pendant, on which a ram is seated.
 
             A fingering was found with the pair of earrings, having the disk decorated with a figured relief, representing the head of a maenad, crowned with a ribbon and grapes bunches – a rare motif for this epoch.
 
             A wonderful Thessaly type medallion is ascribed to the same hoard. By its exceptional artistic qualities, its measurements (83 mm diameter, 25 mm height and 78.215 g weight) and due to its good conservation state, it brings about a deep admiration. Aphrodite’s draped bust, with a laurel crown, is represented on the medallion in high relief with an unveiled breast and with the ends of the taenia holding her hair falling on her shoulders. The medallion is surrounded by a series of little chains, on which little flowers are fixed from place to place (at the meeting points). This medallion attribution to a Thessaly center was made according to study of the 12 other pieces known until now and kept in American and European museums.
 
             The bracelets discovered in Pontic fortresses, belonging to the Hellenistic epoch, are simple, having lion heads decorating their extremities. The same decoration – lion head – is also used at the chain locks, having various shapes.
 
             The relatively meager gold resources during the Hellenistic period is proved not only by often modest proportions and reduced weight of jewelry, but also by the existence of pseudo-jewelry, frequent in Callatis graveyards, as shown by the inventory of a girl’s grave: a gilded ceramics crown with little painted flowers, imitating the bright Hellenistic crowns; gilded ceramics pearls imitating the heavy, massive gold pearls; little applications, also made of gilded ceramics, true to funerary themes of Hellenistic goldsmith handicraft: Sirens, Nikes, Eroses, Maenads, dancers, warriors, doves, grapes clusters (fig. 1).
 
             Tomis became an important production center in Roman times, as proved among others, by the relatively rich and various funerary objects found in its Roman and late Roman graveyards.
During the Roman period we usually encounter the same jewelry types, the same shapes and even the same figured motifs, but an epoch characteristic, imposed by fashion, is the ostentatious abundance evidence in absence of creative fantasy; thus, one may note that accent is cast on easy effects of colored stones settings – precious or semi-precious ones, glass paste with different shapes: flat or bulging, round, oval or square, polished or with engraved decoration (intaglio), or even in relief (cameos).
 
             Intaglios or cameos are the largest and most varied variant of Roman jewelry. They are grinded of uniform color stone (amethyst, cornelian, rubies and garnet) or sardonyx, a stone with different color layers permitting to carve refined decoration. Anyhow, cameos were largely used for brooches, pendants, rings and earrings. 
 
             A gold pendant with cameo, discovered in Constanţa in 1962 is worth mentioning for its outstanding artistic qualities. An oval, two layers sardonyx cameo, decorated with the profile of a young woman, having the elegant Iulia Domna hairdo, is fixed in a gold frame, surrounded by a twisted rope decoration and with a link at the upper part.
 
             Another cameo with female portrait is fastened to the disk of a gold earring, made of a thin, knotted link; it was discovered in a tomb in Tomis.
 
             Among the imperial epoch adornment objects, spread not only in Greek tradition centers on the Pontic littoral (Histria, Tomis, Callatis), but also in Scythia Minor Roman cities, some discoveries made in Capidava fortress Roman necropolis, on the Danubian limes are worth mentioning: a gold ring with cameo carved in two colors sardonix, on which the bust of a male person in a hilarious position is represented in relief; the face traces, the hairdo, the cloth fastened on a shoulder, everything suggests a satiric character. The second piece, belonging to the same tomb, is a medallion with cornaline agate, decorated with a profile female bust presented to the left. The hairdo, with parting and short hair, reminds of Iulia Mammaea. The chiton is elegantly draped around the neck. A thin gold sheet, having the link at the upper part, surrounds the cone shaped stone. It is from artistic point of view an excellently realized work and well preserved. A pair of gold earrings was discovered together with the two pieces mentioned before. They are circularly shaped and pierced, each of them having a green stone in the center.
 
             Among the jewelry discovered in Roman Dobrogea, worth mentioning are: double rings for two fingers, earrings with pendants (grapes clusters, dolphins, gold leaf, heart, ivy leaf or drop shaped framed stones); then, twisted or cuff shaped bracelets, hairpins and more rarely necklaces. Necklaces are made, according to Hellenistic tradition, of little chains with multiple, very differently shaped pendants: figured medallions, little amours, kantharoi etc.
 
             Another jewelry category discovered in graves comprises crowns and diadems. Crowns are made of very little gold leafs with more or less complicated edges (oak, willow, poplar leaves). Diadems are very rare and remain true to the very simple shape of Hellenistic epoch ribbon- diadems. Such pieces from the Roman period have until now been found in Callatis (Mangalia) graves – as for example the case of a simple crown, made of a ribbon on which five vertical little leaves with schematically incised ribs are fastened.
 
             An excavation has brought to light in 1970, in Olimp resort area, near ancient Callatis, a marble sarcophagus with a rich funerary inventory, also containing jewelry. The gold crown has the same ribbon shape, but it is applied on a wood support. In its center a large blue color glass paste stone imitating sapphire is fixed; two smaller, red color stones (one of them is today missing) were fixed to one and the other part of the false sapphire and golden oak tree leaves were attached, alternating with the stones, to the crown ribbon, according to the usual type worn in Dobrogea in that period. The jewelry set is completed by two rings – one is very little and adorned with a topaz, the second is larger, having a mounted ruby gem, on which goddess Diana’s bust is engraved - as well as by three very fine necklaces, made of gold links, alternating with cylindrical glass pearls or tiny shells. A bronze mirror with gilded, richly decorated cover can also be attributed to the same adornment objects category. The entire sarcophagus inventory has been dated to the 2nd cent. AD.
 
             Finally, the grave inventory of a young woman discovered in Constanţa is also dated to the 2nd cent. AD. It consists of 12 glass vessels, a large bronze tray, a bronze oil lamp with high support, and another ceramics oil lamp, bone decorations from a box and - the most impressing - gold adornments realized with Hellenistic technique. The young woman was buried with a crown composed of a central, double trapezoidal shaped medallion; in its center is a garnet, to which on one and the other side four golden appliqués were mounted, each one having a garnet fastened to it. All these elements are surrounded by an arrangement of golden leafs. She wore a collar at the neck, made of a gold sheet, ending in lion heads. At the wrists there were two bracelets, with three mounted blue stones. A pair of earrings with pendants adorned the ears and seven rings were worn on the fingers: one has the shape of a serpent, four rings have stones on which divinities are engraved and two of them show planta pedis. A necklace of cylindrical pearls, a circular fibula with a green stone in its center and a number of appliqués with stones or au repousseé technique decoration can be added to the mentioned adornment objects.
 
             Little crosses and phylacteries complete the variety of adornment objects for the late Roman and Byzantine periods.

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