Beads, worn by both men and women in ancient Egypt, were believed to bring good luck. The Egyptian word sha means luck and sha sha became the word for bead. A number of semi-precious stones were available from Egypt's natural resources but in ancient times, the greatest number of beads were made from faience, an inexpensive ceramic paste that was developed around 4000 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Faience is the forerunner of glass and although the recipe was a closely guarded secret, the technology spread throughout the Ancient World.
During the late Dynastic Period in Egypt (circa 1085 BC) faience beads were produced primarily for funerary use. Egyptian believed that to insure comfort in the Netherworld, the deceased should be surrounded by items from daily life. Quantities of faience beads were buried with the mummy and sometimes they were strung in an intricate manner to fashion a shroud that served as an outer covering for the mummy's linen wrapping.
Also lapis scarabs were popular in the Ancient World. An amulet is anything worn or carried by a person for magical benefit. Of all the magical objects used by the Egyptians, the amulet was by far the most popular and is believed to derive its powers by several closely related principles. Scarabs were included among the mummy wrappings, either singularly or in groups, believing to guarantee the owner resurrection and a new life. It was also believed that the scarab beetle kept the heart from speaking unkindly about the deceased. Finely carved scarabs were used as seals; inscribed scarabs were issued to commemorate important events or buried with mummies.
Metamorphosed form of limestone, rich in the blue mineral lazulite, a complex feldspathoid that is dark blue in color and often flecked with impurities of calcite, iron pyrites or gold. The Egyptians considered that 'its appearance imitated that of the heavens' and considered it to be superior to all materials other than gold and silver. They used it extensively in jewelry until the Late Period (747-332 BC) when it was particularly popular for amulets.
It was frequently described a true Khesbed to distinguish it from imitations made in faience or glass. Its primary use was as inlay in jewelry and carved beads for necklaces. Although small vessels are also known, it could also be used as inlay in the eyes of figurines. Unlike most other stones used in Egyptian jewelry, it does not occur naturally in the deserts of Egypt but had to be imported indirectly as tribute or trade goods from the Near East.
Despite its exotic origin, it was already in use as early as the Predynastic Period, showing that far-reaching exchange networks between North Africa and Western Asia must have already existed in the 4th millennium BC. It is represented in temple scenes. Lapis was also prized by the Sumerians. It was at times reserved for royalty and many cultures believed it had a religious significance.
The Sumerians quest for the precious blue stone established difficult overland trade routes through mountains and back to their cities where the rare stone was made into beads, amulets and cylinder seals. They are shaped and polished by hand and pierced with a bow drill, a tool employed by early lapidaries.
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