Some of the oldest civilizations in the world originated along the fertile banks of the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the countries of the Middle East and North Africa have been cultural melting pots ever since. The trade routes adopted by the region’s nomads linked colorful cultures and time-long traditions like so many beads on a string. And indeed it is in the region’s jewelery that its many-layered history of tribes and empires, nomads and
villagers is perhaps best seen. From an archaeological point of view, decorative details and motifs can be traced back centuries, sometimes even millennia. This book, Desert Silver, explores the social, economic and
religious background of this jewelery.
The traditional silver jewelery of the region combines a variety of aspects of desert life. As the unalienable property of a woman, it has practical, economic value; it serves as a social indicator and reveals where the wearer comes from, how rich she is and her status as a wife and mother. Perhaps more importantly it is frequently worn as a powerful amulet. Jewelery plays a subtle role in everyday society as communicator, messenger and bank account, and all of these aspects are discussed in the book and illustrated with rich examples, from Palestinian wedding necklaces made from fragrant cloves to the brightly enamelled bracelets of the Maghreb.
The different functions fulfilled by jewelery are rooted deep within society, so changes within that society inevitably impact its jewellery. Now that traditional societies are changing fast, what does the future hold for the traditional silver jewellery of the Middle East and North Africa, jewelery that has remained unchanged for centuries?
This first comprehensive account of the Maria Theresa Thaler in English covers every aspect of the thaler's use, and explains how this coin came to be accepted as the universal currency for trade in the Middle East and beyond. The role of the coin in financing military expeditions and colonial wars is thoroughly examined.
Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba documents a disappearing artistic and cultural tradition with over three hundred photographs showing individual pieces, rare images of women wearing their jewelry with traditional dress, and the various regions in Yemen where the author did her field research. Ransom's descriptions of the people she met and befriended, and her exploration of the significance of a woman's handmade jewelry with its attributes of power, protection, beauty, and personal identity, are a rich source of information that will appeal to ethnic jewelry fans, ethnographers, jewelry designers, and art historians.
Amulet cases, hair ornaments, bridal headdresses, earrings, necklaces, ankle and wrist bracelets are all beautifully photographed in intricate detail, interspersed with the author's own photographs of the women who shared their stories and their hospitality with her. A chapter on the history of silversmithing in Yemen tells the surprising story of the famed Jewish Yemeni silversmiths, many of whom left Yemen in the late 1940s. This is the first in-depth study of Yemeni silver, uniquely illustrated with photographs of a world that is transforming before our eyes, and animated with the portraits of a precious legacy.
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