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Roman Judaea Single Wire Serpent Bronze Bracelet 100AD $299.99 - SOLD

Large, Sophisticated Genuine Ancient Roman Judaea Single-Wire Bronze Bracelet Circa 100 A.D.

CLASSIFICATION: Roman-Judaean Bronze Bracelet.

ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Roman Empire (Judaea), 1st Century A.D.


Outside Diameter: 76mm x 73mm millimeters.

Inside Diameter: 71mm x 68mm millimeters.

Constructed of bronze wire 3 to 3 1/2 millimeters in diameter.

Center "Bezel": 50mm (length) x 9mm (breadth) x 6mm (thickness) Weight: 16.62 grams.

CONDITION: Very Good, moderately light porosity (surface pitting caused by contact with earth while buried). Professionally conserved.

DETAIL: A well preserved, fairly elaborate single-wire style bronze bracelet with serpent-style heads circa 1st century A.D. recovered in what was the Roman Province of Judaea. It is of a well-known design. If you look closely you can see how the bracelet itself is constructed of one piece of bronze heavy-gauge wire, the ends of which are twisted over one another so as to "close" the bracelet. If you look closely, you can also see that the entire bracelet is composed of a single carefully twisted and shaped bronze wire. The ancient Greeks found similarly styled twisted bronze bracelets very much to their taste, and the process of working a strand of bronze and fashioning it into a bracelet was very popular in the first few centuries B.C. This Roman bracelet is twisted and shaped in the same style. It is very appealing, and a fairly sophisticated and "upscale" piece of jewelry.

The bracelet is pretty good sized, and although it would not fit many men, it would fit most women, as well as men of more slender build. As is ordinarily the case, the artifact exhibits some porosity (surface pitting caused by burial in earth). Unlike so many smaller bronze artifacts which are completely disfigured by corrosion, this particular piece happened to come to rest in extremely gentle soil conditions. The consequence is that though you can see upon magnification (such as these photo enlargements) clear evidence that this bracelet spent millennia buried beneath the ground, nonetheless to the eye it is quite pleasant, the metal surfaces highly polished with the rich, warm glow of ancient bronze.

To the eye the finish of the metal is exceptional, the slight blemishes due to porosity are simply not discernible. Of course in these photo enlargements these blemishes are a little more visible. But in hand the bracelet simply appears a nicely toned bronze bracelet. The piece is not heavily corroded or disfigured as are commonly most smaller ancient metal artifacts, in fact, you have to scrutinize it very closely to see the telltale traces of porosity. The bracelet is quite handsome, and makes a very distinctive and uncommon piece of ancient jewelry. It is a fairly elaborate style, especially with the engraved "twisted wire" design, workmanship which would be characteristic of high-end jewelry. Although the "rich and famous" of course commissioned jewelry in silver and gold, nonetheless this is a fairly expensive piece, not the type of jewelry one would expect to find on the common Roman citizen.

You can see that the "centerpoint" of the bracelet, the "bezel" if you will, features the two ends of the wire flattened to resemble two serpent's heads facing one another. This is a variant of an ancient theme known as an "ouroboros". The most common variant of this theme is a single snake consuming its own tail. However the ancient Egyptians had a two-headed variant representing both the male and female form, and the ancient Egyptian culture and religions had a great deal of influence in the ancient Levant (Syria to Phoenicia), an area which the Egyptians had often controlled and always influenced.

To the ancient Egyptians the ouroboros was a symbol of the universe, of "eternity" or "never ending". It was associated with the process of rebirth, an allusion to the ability of a snake to shed one incarnation after another as it yearly shed its skin. The ancient Egyptian concept of rebirth could be seen in this process of molting. To the Greeks the Ouroboros encircled the Universe. Everything known and everything unknown was encompassed within its embracing coils, supporting and maintaining the earthly balance. It injected life into death and death into budding life. The Phoenicians represented it in their temples as a dragon curled in a circle and devouring its tail, to denote the way in which the world feeds on itself and returns on itself.

The bracelet is quite solidly built, a wonderful example of early Roman jewelry, and of unimpaired integrity. Almost two thousand years after it was originally produced, it is still completely wearable, and will bring many years of wearing enjoyment to a new owner. The Romans were very fond of jewelry and other personal adornments. Typical jewelry included bracelets worn both on the forearm as well as upper arm, rings, brooches, pendants, earrings, hair pins, as well as decorative buckles and fibulae. This is a very durable and representative example of a Roman bracelet. Whether worn or displayed, it is an evocative and authentic "souvenir" of the Roman Empire, the greatest military power, and one of the most advanced civilizations of the ancient world.

HISTORY: The symbol of ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail, is one of the most ancient multi-cultural mythical symbolisms. Ouroboros is the name for the Great World Serpent, encircling the earth. The symbol appears to have originated in ancient Egypt about 1600 B.C. The ancient Egyptians regarded it as an image of time cycling, and all things returning to one, the end being but a new beginning, the cycle of life. It seems to have been considered a symbol of the universe, and the concept of eternity, as there was no end, the snake feeding upon itself grew upon itself. Though specific references are few, there seems to be a connection with the early Egyptian symbol for cobra, the hieroglyph for which was the word "Goddess", as in mother goddess or "matter", from which came the primordial egg (floating on a sea of salt water), Ma'at. A variant also enjoyed great popularity in ancient Egypt, a symbol composed of two serpents rather than one, one serpent male, the other female. Two images from ancient Egypt may be found (here) and (here).

From Egypt the symbolism seems to have spread to Babylon and China (about 1200 B.C.). In China the symbol was found engraved on a bronze receptacle from the Chou dynasty. In Babylon the symbol was known as Tiamat, the primordial mother goddess who represented (again) salt water. This tale of the beginning of the world is found within the Babylonian epic, the "Enuma Elish". To the Sumerians Tiamat was also known as the "Great Mother Serpent of Heaven". By 1000 B.C. the symbol had been adopted by the ancient Phoenicians, and shortly thereafter by the ancient Greeks who named the symbol, "ouroboros" (literally "tail eater"), as we now know it. The symbol also spread to the Norse, Germans, and Celts - the Norse calling it "midgard".

In the Norse myth of Ragnorok, the twilight of the Gods -- the end of the world. In this gigantic battle, the Midgard Serpent comes from the ocean to join in the battle. The beast and Thor fight bitterly, finally the beast is killed, but not before the venom of the beast overcomes Thor and he dies. There were also versions in Africa (where the snake was coiled within the womb of the universal black mother goddess); in aboriginal Australia (the Goddess "Una"), in Indian Hindu mythology, and in the various Indian cultures in North and South America (for instance the Venezuelan Yaruro's "Puana, 'creator of all'"). This mythical religious symbol was truly an archetypal concept.

Bronze is the name given to a wide range of alloys of copper, typically mixed in ancient times with zinc or tin. The Bronze Age followed the Neolithic, and as the name implies, saw the production of bronze tools, weapons and armor which were either hard or more durable than their stone predecessors. Traditionally archaeology has maintained that the earlier bronze was produced by the Maikop, a proto-Indo-European, proto-Celtic culture of Caucasus prehistory around 3500 B.C. Recent evidence however suggests that the smelting of bronze might be as much as several thousand years older. Shortly after the emergence of bronze technology in the Caucasus region, bronze technology emerged in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), Anatolia (Turkey) and the Iranian Plateau. By the late fourth to early third millennium B.C. many Bronze Age Cultures had emerged. Some of the more notable were the Celtic cultures of Middle Europe stretching from Hungary to Poland and Germany, including the Urnfield, Lusatian, and (Iron Age Transitional) Hallstatt Cultures.

The Shang in ancient China also developed a significant Bronze Age culture, noted for large bronze burial urns. Britain's Bronze Age cultures included the Beaker, Wessex, Deverl, and Rimbury. Cornwall was the principle source of tin not only for Britain but exported throughout the Mediterranean, and copper was produced from the Great Orme mine in North Wales. Though much of the raw minerals may have come from Britain (and to a lesser extent Spain), it was the Aegean world which controlled the trade in bronze. The great seafaring Minoan Empire appears to have controlled, coordinated, and defended the Bronze Age trade. Tin and charcoal were imported into Cyprus, where locally mined copper was mined and alloyed with the tin from Britain. It appears that the Bronze Age collapsed with the Minoan Empire, to be replaced by a Dark Age and the eventual rise of the Iron Age Myceneans. Evidence suggests that the precipitating event might have been the eruption of Thera and the ensuing tsunami, which was only about 40 miles north of Crete, the capital of the Minoan empire.

It is known that the bread-basket of the Minoan empire, the area north of the Black Sea lost population, and thereafter many Minoan colony/client-states lost large populations to extreme famines or pestilence. Thus with the end to the shipping of tin throughout the Mediterranean the Bronze Age trade network is believed to have failed, and the end of the Bronze Age and the rise of the Iron age is normally associated with the disturbances created by large population movements in the 12th century B.C. The end of the Bronze Age saw the emergency of new technologies and civilizations which heralded the new Iron Age. Although iron was in many respects much inferior to bronze (steel was still thousands of years away), iron had the advantage that it could be produced using local resources during the dark ages that followed the Minoan collapse. Bronze also resists corrosion and metal fatigue better than iron. Bronze was still used during the Iron Age, but for many purposes the weaker iron was sufficiently strong to serve in its place. As an example, Roman officers were equipped with bronze swords while foot soldiers had to make do with iron blades.

One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. In exchange for a very modest amount of contemporary currency, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,000 year old piece of jewelry. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.). In the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans and Celts. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled the Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt in the 1st Century (B.C.).

The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. For a brief time, the era of "Pax Romana", a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine temporarily arrested the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.

At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. Valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably these ancient citizens would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, two thousand years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. Roman Soldiers oftentimes came to possess large quantities of "booty" from their plunderous conquests, and routinely buried their treasure for safekeeping before they went into battle.

If they met their end in battle, most often the whereabouts of their treasure was likewise, unknown. Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day 2,000 years or more after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, new markets have opened eager to share in these treasures of the Roman Empire.

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