The brilliant beads of ‘Cleopatra’s necklace’: Ancient Egyptian jewellery plucked from burial mound of Siberian ‘virgin princess’

Posted: February 3, 2013 by phaedrap1 in News, Science
Tags:

  • Glass necklace discovered inside 2,400-year-old burial mound
  • Jewellery thought to have belonged to a 25-year-old virgin priestess
  • Experts want to pinpoint precise origin of priceless beads

Extraordinary brightly-coloured glass jewellery believed to be from Ancient Egypt has been found in a 2,400-year-old burial mound in Siberia.

Nicknamed ‘Cleopatra’s Necklace’ by the Russians who found it, the jewellery was discovered on the skeleton of a 25-year-old woman, believed to have been a virgin priestess.

Although it was discovered during a dig nine years ago, this is the first time a picture of the priceless 17-bead necklace has been shown since it was found in the Altai Mountains by archaeologist Yelena Borodovskya.

Rare find: The necklace was discovered around the neck of a skeleton in a 24,000-year-old burial moundRare find: The necklace was discovered around the neck of a skeleton in a 24,000-year-old burial mound

 

Valued: The intricate beads are believed to have belonged to a 25-year-old virgin priestessValued: The intricate beads are believed to have belonged to a 25-year-old virgin priestess

 

Intricate: The beads were created using the 'Millefiori technique' where glass canes or rods are combined to produce multicoloured patternsIntricate: The beads were created using the ‘Millefiori technique’ where glass canes or rods are combined to produce multicoloured patterns

Siberian academics have released the images in the hope of finding experts from across the world who may be able to pinpoint the necklace’s exact origin.

 ‘It has a striking variety of colours, beautiful shades of deep and light yellow and blue, said Professor Andrey Borodovsky, 53, of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Novosibirsk.

‘I have worked with Altai antiquities for more than 30 years, and this necklace is probably the most beautiful find I’ve ever seen.’

Discovery: The precious necklace was found by archeologist Yelena Borodovskaya in the Altai mountains of SiberiaDiscovery: The precious necklace was found by archeologist Yelena Borodovskaya in the Altai mountains

 

Investigating: Professor Andrey Borodovsky is keen to discover how the necklace came to SiberiaInvestigating: Professor Andrey Borodovsky is keen to discover how the necklace came to Siberia

Professor Borodovsky said that the intricate beads were made using the ‘Millefiori technique’, which involves production of glass canes or rods with multicoloured patterns that can only be seen from the cut ends.

It is believed that the jewellery pre-dates Egyptian queen Cleopatra, who died in 30BC, but Professor Borodovsky wants to find experts to help him date the piece, according to the Siberian Times.

The owner of the necklace was believed to have been 25-years-old when she was buried with the beads around her neck.

Unusual: Professor Borodovsky, pictured left, said the skeleton was also found with a bronze mirrorUnusual: Professor Borodovsky, pictured left, said the skeleton was also found with a bronze mirror

She was believed to have been a ‘blue-blooded’ woman, who was likely to have come from a highly regarded tribe or clan.

‘It is quite likely she was a priestess,’ said Professor Borodovsky.

‘What points to this status is a bronze mirror which was packed into her “burial bag”.

‘The mirror had a chain of bronze pendants attached to it, also there was a set of sacrificial bones with a little butcher knife.

‘It shows that the mirror was treated as a living creature, which points to its magical function.

‘If she performed some priestly functions, she could have been a virgin, not having a family and belonging to a completely different social sphere.’

Academics also suspect the mystery necklace owner was a kinswoman of the famous tattooed ‘Princess Ukok’, whose body artwork was preserved in ice following her death.

An artifact such as the necklace has never been found in Russia before, although Professor Borodovsky said that he was not surprised that the jewellery reached remote Siberia from Egypt more than two millennia ago during the Scythian period.

‘Siberia has always been a kind of ‘stream of civilization’ – a transit territory, rich with resources and attractive for migration,’ he said.

He added that the necklace, and its owner had probably come to Siberia via present-day Kazakhstan, along an old silk road.

‘It is most likely by this route that those beads got to Altai,’ he said.

‘Obviously, this area was a very busy place.’

Intrigue: Professor Borodovsky suspects that the necklace arrived in Siberia via silk road through modern-day KazakhstanIntrigue: Professor Borodovsky suspects that the necklace arrived in Siberia via silk road through modern-day Kazakhstan

Ancient: The necklace and skeleton were discovered at this Siberian burial ground, believed to be around 2,400-years-oldAncient: The necklace and skeleton were discovered at this Siberian burial ground, believed to be around 2,400-years-old

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Comments
  1. 1wanderingtruthseeker says:

    If you look at the eyes on the necklace (big blue ones), they look to me like some of the statues of summerian cultures with the big blue eyes.

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