Help the Egypt Centre to solve a 5000 year old puzzle
Egypt Centre staff and volunteers have been enlisting the help of visitors in their quest to answer a long debated question as to whether an ivory bracelet from Predynastic cemetery 1600 in Armant belonged to a child or an adult.
The Centre’s Volunteer manager and volunteers have been conducting some ‘experimental archaeology’ and with the help of visitors to the Centre have been trying to answer this 5000 year old question.
The bracelet is typical of the Pre and Early Dynastic Period. During this period, jewellery was often placed in graves as grave goods to take to the afterlife or to help the deceased get to the afterlife. This bracelet is typical of the type of grave goods of the period. Such graves were oval shaped with a body bent inside. Grave goods surrounded the body and the whole grave was covered by sand. Beads, hair combs, cosmetic palettes, and other body adornment like this bracelet were usually placed clustered around the head, while pots and bigger items were around the feet.
This bracelet is made from shell or ivory. Such bracelets are found in men’s, women’s and children’s graves. It is not known whether the bracelet was used in daily life, or made especially for the grave. The bracelet fragment appears to be very small, and, based on its size, could have been a child’s bracelet. There certainly were child burials in Armant, which is about 9 km outside of Luxor and has some of the best recorded examples of Predynastic cemeteries in Egypt. The bracelet was excavated in the 1930s by Oliver Myers. Unfortunately, cemetery 1600 is unpublished.
Ashleigh Taylor, Volunteer Manager of the Egypt Centre said: “ We wanted to find out if the size showed whether it was worn by a child or adult so we measured the circumference of the bracelet. It was 16cm. Then we made a string version cut to the exact size that the bracelet would have been. It was small! We tied it around different individual’s hands in the Egypt Centre. Although we found that it could fit around some adult wrists, it was tight and of course string, being flexible, is easier to put over the wrist than a bracelet. However, the people of ancient Egypt were a lot smaller than today’s Egypt Centre volunteers, so we concluded that it could have fitted an adult.
“The Egypt Centre, situated within the Swansea University grounds is open Tuesday-Saturday 10-4pm with lots of hands on activities available for free. Visitors are invited to come and see the bracelet themselves and help solve the 5000 year old puzzle!”