This necklace, made of graduated blue faience beads, is one of many such necklaces from the Middle Kingdom. Egyptian faience was a ubiquitous and very versatile material in ancient Egypt and is attested in one form or another from the Predynastic period on. Faience was used to create jewelry, architectural decoration, small sculpture, and vessels for royal and non-royal patrons. Faience is a self-glazing ceramic material, created using a number of techniques, each gaining popularity at different moments in history. In the Middle Kingdom, faience was made using two techniques. In the first, called efflorescence, a ground copper would be added to a mixture of silica (sand), lime, and an alkali (plant ash or natron salt), this mixture would then be molded or carved into the desired form, then heated. When heated, the ingredients would combine, with quartz and copper migrating to the surface of the object, creating a blue glassy surface. The second technique popular in the Middle Kingdom is called cementation. In this technique the body of the object is molded or carved out of the same material but instead of mixing the glazing salts throughout, they are sprinkled on top and heated, creating the same glassy surface on the object. Faience, while still a luxury item, was accessible to a wide range of society and can be found in the form of small votive sculptures at shrine sites or in poorer burials as shabtis, or jewelry. However, faience was valued by royal patrons and those they ruled for its color and luminescence. The Egyptian word for faience, tjehnet refers to something that sparkles. The shiny blue color of faience had regenerative and nourishing associations because of its affinity with water. And the material's luminescence related it to celestial bodies such as the sun and the moon. It is likely these associations led to the prevalent use of faience particularly in funerary contexts and it is logical to suggest that this object came from a Middle Kingdom burial although we have no record of its provenance. It is likely that this necklace once adorned the neck of a deceased Egyptian who sought to capitalize on the regenerative associations of the material.


  • Title: Necklace
  • Location: Africa, Egypt
  • Physical Dimensions: 17 1/4 x 1/4 in. (43.8 x 0.6 cm)
  • Provenance: Ex private collection, United States.
  • Subject Keywords: necklace, jewelry
  • Rights: © Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White
  • External Link: https://collections.carlos.emory.edu/objects/20681/
  • Medium: Faience
  • Art Movement: Egyptian
  • Period/Style: Middle Kingdom
  • Dates: 1980-1760 BC
  • Classification: Ancient Egyptian Art

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