North Mesopotamian Jewellery during the Third Millennium B.C.: Some Considerations. (Fabrice De Backer)


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            As we wrote it at the beginning of this thesis, such as study would have been more interesting whether all Mesopotamian and neighbouring civilizations would have been included in the data base. Still, the evidences collected, as our proposals for the identification of some peculiar jewels have been mentioned, are a good step on the way to a better knowledge of the symbols of power in the Ancient Near East.

            Despite the melting of sacred and secular power signs, we could note how jewellery links with the human and sacred authority representatives, relying on three specific levels. These can also be distinguished in the Victorian England four steps to gentleman status. These are organized from bottom to top in the following order : the middle-class works to have money, the Letter nobility have studied to have manners, the Sword nobility has earned the gratitude of the central power and the religious nobility is the counsellor of the chief of the state.

            The first one is obviously the economic wealth, the primary pace the ancient civilizations made to the emergence of state structures. This might explain why so many small items of rich value –i.e. earrings, rings, hair-locks- were recovered. This also had to be seen, as the new robe of a woman only becomes really beautiful when friends have seen it, and so be underlined where it could. So, the simple, practical objects came to be ornamented or realised with precious materials, such as the toggle- or the hair-pins, which may originally have been made out of organic materials. These apparels firstly appear in the Ubaid period, if not before.

            The second step to power is closely related to the first one, as it is simply a way to keep and to enlarge it : military strength, the power that a person can have over the other by the means of his sole strength, at the beginning at least. He who has the military and technological supremacy can usually be the one which is supposed to dominate. Actually, military and economic wealth can attract scientists, specialists and common people, as the essential thought of a living being may be prosperity and survival[1]. Signs are clearly shown on the Standard of Ur or in the textual evidences left by the concerned civilizations, for example. As a mark of this step, we can mention the first weaponry products made with weak precious materials, as the electrum helmet of Meskalamdug, or the first chariotry known in Mesopotamia until now.


            The third stride has been achieved by Narâm-Sin, following the actual evidences we have nowadays : the accession to the deity status. Religion, the infinite power that gods have over all humans, which is attested by all the means and expenses humans took to reach an appearance as similar as they could to the supra-natural beings as they imagined them. The heaps of precious stones and metals, “golden garments” remains, either recovered in tombs or deposits, testify the struggle of some people living in North Mesopotamia during the third millennium to reach quite an “immortal appearance”, similar to the Sun[2]. This reminds us some Pre-Columbian ruler, called El Dorado in the European contemporary legends, for whose kingship rituals was, for instance, to bath completely covered with gold-dust within a lake.

            Finally, what can jewellery be if not a way to distinguish somebody’s identity from another person’s, still with the idea, even unconscious, of being “better” than the other? We think people need to know where, when, who they are and why they want to go on in their existence. This phenomenon is a way to the awakening of the individual identity, after centuries of common work, and of the beginning of personal goal achievement attempts. This last thing is, to our humble advice at least, the necessary engine for the creation and the establishment of an organized and prosperous society development until it reaches its final fate : disappearance, the sine quae non arrival point of the human quest for eternity.

            So, as jewellery was used to identify and to please people’s ego and appearance, it also served to prevent them from coming out of their tombs when, once buried, their spirit realised they had to be confined in the same existence as they had in their physical life. Happily for them, archaeologists try to return them pieces of their identity by their researches, that makes our job so marvellous as we always meet and study people components.

            As the final sentence, let us think about this eternal cycle and circle of life, well attested in the Mespotamian thought, where everybody lived and died to come back after a whith, and started again his ascension to glory or eternity : the pleasure being not to find but to search it[3].


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[1] See the Wehrmacht’s achievements at the beginning of the Blitzkrieg.

[2] Another guy also felt in that delirium, about half a century ago, and declared he opened a rule of one thousand years.

[3] TALON Ph., 1988, p. 64 ; SCURLOCK J.O., 1995, p. 1885.