Friday, September 12, 2014

Phoenician Beads

I found some nice pictures of Phoenician Beads online and have been playing around with making a few. I love the color combinations on these beads. I will have to make a necklace of these some day.

Edit (November 11th): Additional links to historic beads from the Corning Museum (a more authoritative source!)

I started out looking at European Celtic/Iron Age Beads (so I could have an excuse to practice and play with stacked dots), but found the Phoenician beads which were similar in design/color. A line in Lois Dubin's History of Glass Beads book notes that the Phoenician beads were traded around and they ended up influencing the Celtic designs. However,  I have to order the book on Interlibrary Loan to trace down her reference, as I just have a photocopy of that page. The face bead, on the other hand, just looked like fun, and I have not tried much sculptural bead making yet.

Edit: Dec 22nd-- Some background on the Phoenicians and Phoenician glass making

The Phoenician's is a more modern historical term for the people who settled on the cost of the Mediterranean where modern day Lebanon is (along with parts of Israel and Syria) by about 3000 BCE.  Through the second and first millennium, they expanded their influence, sailing, trading, and setting up colonies across the Mediterranean, and as far away as Spain. Early in its history the area of Phoenicia had commercial ties to Egypt, and it was also a tributary to Egpyt, until Egypt lost control of the region in  the 14th century BCE (Britannica).

It is from Egypt that the Phoenicians learned about glass making, and they were able to set up their own glass industry due to an abundance of the necessary raw materials, such as sand which contained a large quantity of quartz in it, along with good sources of soda, either from Egypt's soda (Natron) lakes, or by using the ash from local saltwater plants. Glassmaking factories were set up in Tyre and Sidon, two Phonecian cities, and it is there that the first transparent glass was made. Unlike the Egyptians, for whom glass was a luxury good, the Phoenicians produced enough glass to sell it at a lower price and to trade it all over the Mediterranean world  (Herm, 77-80). Evidence for this trade in raw glass and finished products can be found in correspondence from Egypt and from shipwrecks, such as the Ulu Burun (Markoe, 156).

One style of decorated Phoenician beads were their eye beads, composed of dots stacked on top of each other either raised, or melte din flush with the base bead. The eye motif was found in Egypt Egyptian glass during the second millennium, and it also appeared in Phoenician beads in the later part of the second and the first millennium (Simone and Gennett, 24). Much later, in the late 7th century BCE, the Phoenecians began to create glass pendants in teh shape of demon masks, animals, and male and female heads. These "head beads" were also used as protective talismans on necklaces much as were the earlier and simpler eye beads (Markoe, 157).

Phoenicia: Historical Region, Asia- Encyclopedia Britannica Online
Phoenicians- Glenn E Markoe
The Phoenicians- Gerhard Herm
Simone and Gennett, (Spring 2013). "Tracing Eye Beads Through Time" The Flow. p. 24-26