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Sz 9 3/4 Ancient Egypt Stone Serpent Ring 550BC $199.99 - SOLD


Ancient Egyptian Elaborately Hand Carved Soapstone (Steatite) Ouroboros (Serpent) Ring.

CLASSIFICATION: Faience Glazed Steatite (Soapstone) Carved Ourboros Ring.

ATTRIBUTION: Ancient Egypt, 26th Dynasty, Ahmose II (?), 569-526 B.C.

RING SIZE: 9 3/4 (U.S.)

DIAMETER: 28 millimeters (outside). 20.5 millimeters (inside).

HEIGHT: 9 millimeters (height/breadth measured as if laying flat).

THICKNESS: 4.5 millimeters.

WEIGHT: 4.87 grams.

CONDITION: Excellent, faience glaze 80% intact, exceptionally sharp detail preserved. Professionally conserved.

DETAIL: A 2,500 year hand carved steatite (soapstone) ouroboros ring depicting a snake consuming its own tail. The ring amulet is constructed of steatite, a soft mineral also known as soapstone, which was then treated with a turquoise colored faience glaze. This is a very large ring, eminently wearable should you so decide to wear it on your own finger. As you can see, the incised detail is simply superb, and intact. To the ancient Egyptians the ouroboros was a symbol of the universe, of "eternity" or "never ending". It was associated with the process of rebirth, an allusion to the ability of a snake to shed one incarnation after another as it yearly shed its skin. The ancient Egyptian concept of rebirth could be seen in this process of molting. To the Greeks the Ouroboros encircled the Universe. Everything known and everything unknown was encompassed in its embracing coils, supporting and maintaining the earthly balance. It injected life into death and death into budding life. The Phoenicians represented it in their temples as a dragon curled in a circle and devouring its tail, to denote the way in which the world feeds on itself and returns on itself.

CONSTRUCTION: The amulet is carved soapstone. Faience glazed soapstone was much favored by the ancient Egyptians, who associated the blue-green coloration with the color of the sacred Nile River, giver of life to all of ancient Egypt. Such specimens are generally intricately carved, especially the finer details of the serpent scales. This ring is exquisitely detailed, very sharp in definition, and being of soapstone (rock), very well preserved. Faience amulets and beads were produced in ancient Egypt by crushing quartz mixed with copper, which was then made into a paste. The paste was then placed into an open-back mold, and then fired. The quartz would fuse, and the copper would give the resulting product a color with blue and/or green hues, which was favored by the ancient Egyptians as the color of the Nile River. Given the passage of twenty-five centuries, it is not uncommon for such amulets to have lost all or most their glassy faience glaze. Most amulet/rings of this style will retain some or most of the original turquoise green or blue faience glaze. And the color ranges from a bright turquoise all the way through a khaki-like dark green. Specimens with all of the faience glaze intact while not rare, are nonetheless the exception, not the rule.

Amulets such as these, even though assuredly ancient, were "mass produced" for the populace at large. It is worth noting that the exceptional condition of an artifact often not only takes into account the state of preservation, but oftentimes can also be due to the superior workmanship and artistic qualities present in the finished amulet. The detail and technique present in the finished amulet is a reflection of a skilled artisan of that distant past who left a living testament to his craftsmanship, which still speaks of his pride and abilities over twenty-five centuries later. Conversely, a poorly skilled artisan might produce an amulet which even today may easily be recognized as an inferior product, often not much more than a crudely shaped lump of material, poorly featured with coarse detail. This is a well-preserved ring/amulet, exquisitely detailed and finely carved. It is certainly not the normal specimen, which often has been reduced to a crudely featured lump by the passage of millennia.

HISTORY: One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was ancient Egypt. For a mere hundred dollars or thereabouts, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,500 year old amulet. These magical talismans are amongst the most sought after and highly collectible artifacts from ancient Egypt. Religion was very important to the ancient Egyptians, and they worshipped many gods. These gods and goddesses often represented the natural world, such as the sky, earth, sun, or wind. The gods took the form of animals or animal/human figures. The ancient Egyptians wore amulets, small representations of these gods, as magical charms to ward off danger. They believed that these amulets, or talismans, would not only protect them in life, but in death as well, and would endow the individual wearing them with magical powers and capabilities.

While religious beliefs in ancient Egypt played a very important role in life, they played an even larger role in death. The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead prescribed 104 different types of amulets be buried with the mummy in order to protect the deceased on his or her journey into the afterlife. Typically pinned to or wrapped within their burial shroud, it was not uncommon to find even thousands of amulets in the possession of the mummified remains of more prominent members of that ancient civilization. Typically when mummifying the deceased, there could be as many as 80 layers of linen, and it was not unusual to place at least one amulet representation of each of the more significant deities within each layer.

Amulets were made in many sizes and of many materials, including terracotta, wood, stone, bronze, silver, gold, occasionally precious gemstones, but most often of "faience". Faience was the forerunner of modern glass, and was manufactured by the Egyptians as far back as 4000 B.C. Faience is composed of ground quartz and sand together with a coloring agent. Although faience was made in many different colors, most often the coloring agent used was copper ore, which would impart a turquoise blue or turquoise green color. Made into a paste, the mixture of silica and coloring agent(s) it was pressed into molds, and then fired in an oven. When baked, the quartz would migrate as a glaze to the surface of the amulet within the mold. When the mold was opened, the amulet would have a smooth, glassy surface. If colored with copper ore, the resulting product would typically be a shade between deep cobalt blue and pale emerald or jade green. The manufacture of amulets and the application of the magic spells for the benefit of the deceased, were almost always overseen by Egyptian priests.

With respect to this particular form of amulet, the symbol of ouroboros, a snake eating it's own tail, is one of the most ancient multi-cultural mythical symbolisms. Ouroboros is the name for the Great World Serpent, encircling the earth. The symbol appears to have originated in ancient Egypt about 1600 B.C. The ancient Egyptians regarded it as an image of time cycling, and all things returning to one, the end being but a new beginning, the cycle of life. It seems to have been considered a symbol of the universe, and the concept of eternity, as there was no end, the snake feeding upon itself grew upon itself. Though specific references are few, there seems to be a connection with the early Egyptian symbol for cobra, the hieroglyph for which was the word "Goddess", as in mother goddess or "matter", from which came the primordial egg (floating on a sea of salt water), Ma'at. A variant also enjoyed great popularity in ancient Egypt, a symbol composed of two serpents rather than one, one serpent male, the other female. Two images from ancient Egypt may be found here and here

From Egypt the symbolism seems to have spread to Babylon and China (about 1200 B.C.). In China the symbol was found engraved on a bronze receptacle from the Chou dynasty. In Babylon the symbol was known as Tiamat, the primordial mother goddess who represented (again) salt water. This tale of the beginning of the world is found within the Babylonian epic, the "Enuma Elish". To the Sumerians Tiamat was also known as the "Great Mother Serpent of Heaven". By 1000 B.C. the symbol had been adopted by the ancient Phoenicians, and shortly thereafter by the ancient Greeks who named the symbol, "ouroboros" (literally "tail eater"), as we now know it. The symbol also spread to the Norse, Germans, and Celts - the Norse calling it "midgard". In the Norse myth of Ragnorok, the twilight of the Gods -- the end of the world. In this gigantic battle, the Midgard Serpent comes from the ocean to join in the battle. The beast and Thor fight bitterly, finally the beast is killed, but not before the venom of the beast overcomes Thor and he dies. There were also versions in Africa (where the snake was coiled within the womb of the universal black mother goddess); in aboriginal Australia (the Goddess "Una"), in Indian Hindu mythology, and in the various Indian cultures in North and South America (for instance the Venezuelan Yaruro's "Puana, 'creator of all'"). This mythical religious symbol was truly an archetypal concept.

Amulets from ancient Egypt were buried typically for between 2,500 and 3,000 years before being unearthed inside of tombs within the last century or two. Amulets typically are between one-half and two inches in size. Amulets were extremely important to the ancient Egyptians, a focal point of both their life and their belief in the hereafter. Amulets were oftentimes worn about the neck by the ancient Egyptians, typically on a beaded necklace. The beads were most often faience beads, in colors ranging from tan to pale jade green to cobalt blue. Though the material used to string the necklaces disappeared in the eons passed while buried within the tombs of Egypt, the beads themselves survived. Oftentimes these necklaces are restrung on modern filaments, and then offered as a matching set with an amulet which can be worn or displayed with pride.

These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. Proceeds of the sales benefit the Southern Urals State Student Association for Archaeological and Anthropological Studies in Russia; providing both postgraduate and undergraduate students with meaningful part-time employment, notebook computers, and both reference and study materials. It also supports other institutions and organizations within Russia involved in the study of anthropology and archaeology. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price.

SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.

Our order fulfillment center near Seattle, Washington will ship your purchase within one business day of receipt of your personal check or money order. If you wish to pay electronically, we accept both PayPal and BidPay. However we ask that you PLEASE WAIT before remitting until we have mutually agreed upon method of shipment and shipping charges and you understand our PayPal limitations and policies (stated here). We will ship within one business day of our receipt of your electronic remittance.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. We prefer your personal check or money order over any other form of payment - and we will ship immediately upon receipt of your check (no "holds"). Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."