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Ancient Egyptian Carnelians with Center Fish Bead and Gold




Carnelian, 20k gold


The necklace is 20 1/8 inches (51 cm) in length. The necklace weighs 13.1 gm.







A necklace of ninety-six 20k gold tube beads, fourteen carnelian barrel beads, and a carved carnelian fish bead faced on each side with a pair of spherical 20k gold beads. Gold beading tips and a hook and eye clasp complete the strand. The fish bead is 1.45 cm in length, 9.5mm in height, and 5mm in thickness. The diameter of the drill hole is 2mm. The carnelian beads are of two shapes: ten of the beads are tapered barrel shapes, and four are oblate oval shapes. The pair facing the fish are 4mm in length, 3.9mm in width at the center and 2.2mm in width at the ends. The drill hole diameter is 1.6mm. The pair at the back of the necklace are 4mm in length and 3.5mm in width. The drill hole diameter is 1.6mm. The ten longer tapered carnelian beads range from 9mm to 7mm in length and are 3.5mm - 4mm in width at the centers. The ends taper to 2mm with the drill hole diameter being 1.6mm. The fish is rounded on the front side with a flat back. The front side has been carved with grooves on the top and bottom fins as well on the tail. Another groove has been made to delineate the head from the body. Material has been ground away to leave a raised circle for the eye and to create a slight swelling of the form at the front of the head to suggest an open mouth. In this way the drill hole becomes the open mouth of the fish. The fish is rendered with an economy of means that nonetheless still conveys all the essential details and allows us to identify the fish as the bolti (genus Tilapia). The bolti ( its Arabic name) was the most frequently depicted fish in ancient Egypt. An inhabitant of shallow waters and sheltered bays, this common Nilotic fish was valued as an important source of food. In our example it is a symbol with talismanic properties, its breeding and feeding associated with abundance, bounty, transformation and rebirth. The carnelian amulet dates from the New Kingdom circa 16th-11th century B.C. The gold tube beads are 3.8mm in length and 2.5mm in width. The two spherical gold beads that face the fish bead are 4.3mm in diameter. Gold beading tips and a hook and eye clasp complete the necklace. All the gold is 20k.