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Splendid, Delicate 2,500 Year Old Very Large Ancient Phoenician Serpent Faience/Glass/Ceramic Bead Pendant (and contemporary chain).

CLASSIFICATION: Very large tubular Phoenician faience bead/pendant. Contemporary 14kt gold electroplated chain.

ATTRIBUTION: Syria, 7th-5th Century B.C.

SIZE: Length: 41 millimeters. Diameter: 15 millimeters.

Weight: 12.54 grams.

Chain: Contemporary gold electroplated 60 centimeters (24 inches) in length.

CONDITION: Excellent, integrity unimpaired. No cracks or repairs.

DETAIL: A necklace composed of a very sizeable 6th century (B.C.) brown and orange colored Phoenician bead/pendant constructed of a primitive silica ceramic. The Phoenicians were fabled in the ancient world for their intricate beadwork, and traded bead/pendants such as these through the Mediterranean. These are quite rare in this condition, rarely recovered intact as is this specimen. The pendant bears a spiraled serpent design, the serpent being one of the most powerful symbols of the ancient world. This is a very substantial piece, and despite its very delicate appearance, it is very durable and ruggedly constructed. It has survived twenty-five centuries of burial without any cosmetically or structurally significant chips, cracks, or breakage. Though the Phoenicians produced and traded such beads far and wide throughout the Mediterranean world – it is uncommon to find intact specimens twenty-five centuries later. The pendant is mounted onto a 24 inch gold electroplated chain so that it may be worn and enjoyed. We would caution however that if it were worn frequently, you would want to use a leather cord – not a metal chain.

Faience, a similar primitive form of ceramic, was the ancient forerunner of modern glass, and was used by the Ancient Egyptians and various Mesopotamian cultures as far back as 3000 B.C. to fashion various amulets, beads, pendants, rings, bracelets, and other items of personal adornment. Faience was produced by crushing quartz sand and mixing it with an alkali binder and mineral oxides to provide color (for instance, copper ore to produce blue-green; iron oxide to produce yellow or red), and then made into a paste. The paste was then placed in a mold, and then fired. The quartz would fuse, and the silica and coloring agent would migrate to the outside of the article, giving it a glassy colored finish. The gold electroplated chain is included at no additional charge, and you may substitute a silver electroplated chain if you prefer. We also have available sterling silver and solid 14kt gold chains as well.

From the most ancient times a serpent has been a powerful symbol. Not only was the snake respected for its prowess as a hunter and in the case of venomous snakes its danger to man, but ancient man seems to have been fascinated with the snakes ability to shed its skin. To the ancient Egyptians, 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. As well, the symbol of a snake eating its own tail (the “ouroboros”) became a very powerful, multi-cultural symbol throughout the ancient world. 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.

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. To the Greeks the Ouroboros encircled the Universe. Everything known and everything unknown was encompassed within 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. 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.

HISTORY: Though glass jewelry, especially gemstones, have been fashioned for over 5,000 years, very little is known about the production of glass in the ancient world. The ancient Egyptians fashioned amulets, beads, and small vessels out of faience, and written records from ancient Mesopotamia refer to the manufacture of glass, describing the manufacturing process as difficult and secret. Ancient lumps of glass have been discovered in the area and dated as far back as 4,000 B.C. Glass was enormously costly jewelry, going back 5,000 years ago to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Sumeria, and all the way through the latter Roman Empire. Around 1,500 B.C. two new production techniques gave rise to more frequent manufacture of glass in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Both techniques involved the use of molten glass rods, either wrapped around a mud core, or placed within a mold. However the end product was nonetheless frightfully expensive, and the process lengthy. Finally around the 1st century B.C. glass blowing techniques were developed, wherein a blob of molten glass was inflated either free form or into a mold by blowing through a hollow metal blowpipe. Glass blowing became widespread during the later Roman Empire, and the inexpensive process created huge demand for glass products, including jewelry. Syria became the "glass factory" of the Roman Empire and glassware came to be widely disseminated throughout the Roman Empire.

The ancient empire of Phoenicia, destined to become both part of the Hellenic and Roman Empires, was in its own right one of the more significant ancient cultures in the world's history. The area that ultimately became known as Phoenicia (derived from the Greek name Phoinikes) was at the western end of the Fertile Crescent, and was settled sometime around 3000 B.C. There anthropologists believe that the westward expansion of these peoples from Mesopotamia met the Mediterranean. The earliest record of the Phoenicians is from about 1600 B.C. There they developed one of the earliest ancient and great seafaring Western cultures, using commerce as their principal motivation and source of influence. In fact, their name for themselves seems to have been Kena'ani (or Canaanites), a word which in Hebrew means "merchants." The prophet Ezekiel in his Biblical foretelling of the fall of one of Phoenicia's great cities, Tyre, reviews the extensive scope of Phoenician trade.

It is believed that Byblos was the first city founded in Phoenicia, followed shortly thereafter by Tyre and Sidon. The later two cities gained prominence after about 1300 B.C., when Byblos was repeatedly sacked and razed by successive waves of raiders. The Phoenicians had developed a vast commercial empire with settlements which stretched as far as North Africa and the coast of Spain. Phoenicia was centered along the coast of what is now Lebanon, but as the centuries past it expanded along the coast north and south. Ugarit to the north was absorbed, and to the south substantial settlements grew into cities which survive in modern Israel; Accho (contemporary Acre), Joppa (Tel Aviv-Yafo) and Dor (Nasholim). However the Phoenicians were more of a trading empire, and never much of a political or military empire like the ancient Greeks and Romans to follow. Consequentially Phoenicia was almost always under the dominion of another political-military empire.

After about 1000 B.C. for instance, the Assyrians required regular tribute payments to their king. Before the Assyrians were the Egyptians, and following the Assyrians were the Persians, then the Greeks under Alexander, and finally the Romans. However regardless of what throne claimed the land and the cities of Phoenicia, they nonetheless maintained economic independence. To the ancient Phoenicians the first order of business was business, and political considerations were secondary. It was only a question of to which throne tribute was to be paid. Thus the ancient Phoenicians were compelled to pushed west in search of new resources and commodities, founding great cities like Utica, and Carthage, a center that grew to become the biggest city in the western Mediterranean and the principal maritime and commercial center. In the process, and formed long-lasting alliances with many other regional powers such as the Kingdom of Israel.

Unfortunately, as with much of what was once Phoenicia, little remains of the great cities that stood at the center of this ancient maritime power. None of the original buildings they lived in and temples they built are still standing, and there is no great wealth of art depicting exactly how they lived. Unfortunately the Roman Empire was not satisfied with anything less than complete subjugation. Conflict between the Phoenician and Roman Empires in the 3rd century B.C. (the Punic Wars) led to its total destruction, dispersion of its forces and people, and, for all practical purposes, the end of the era of Phoenicia's part in the development of the Mediterranean. However the Phoenician people themselves continued to thrive, trade, and flourish, despite their incorporation into the Roman province of Syria. The Roman Empire had become the paramount player in the region, and would tolerate no political, economic, or ideological competitor. And so the great Phoenician Empire was crushed underneath the feet of the Roman Legions and disappeared. However the great legacy of the alphabet, higher learning, and the capital cities of Phoenicia's past - Byblos, Sidon, Tyre, Ugarit and Carthage, survive even to today as testaments to the vitality of that ancient empire.

The antiquities offered were originally part of a collection accumulated throughout most of the twentieth century. The Roman artifacts were found principally in Romania (literally "land of the Romans"). The Sumerian artifacts were unearthed in both Turkey and Syria, which along with Iraq and Iran constituted the majority of the sites of the ancient Sumerian civilizations. The Egyptian antiquities were part of a collection amassed in the mid-1960's, at the height of Soviet influence in Egypt.

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."