A partial Egyptian Striped Ball Bead, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11- 12, ca. 2040 - 1786 BCE
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Large hollow ball beads of azure faience and pierced for stringing, have their origin in the Middle Kingdom. These spheres have either alternating sectors of blue and black or, such as this example, have a striped black pigment applied to the blue faience. They may have been worn in a variety of ways, for instance, singularly or in multiples around the neck, strung with smaller beads fastened to the top of the head or suspended from the bottom of a single plait of hair. The method of manufacture of hollow faience balls has been the subject of speculation. Verges has suggested that closed, hollow faience forms could be made using the "a noyau perdu" technique. In this method, a suitable vegetable material, such as reed, is compacted into the desired shape and then covered with a faience paste. On heating, the organic material is reduced to ash, leaving an essentially hollow core. Evidence of this technique can be found on the inner surface of broken beads where impressions of reed fibers are clearly visible, as can be found in this example.
See: Friedman, Florence Dunn 'Gifts of the Nile: Ancient Egyptian Faience', T & H (1998), #81. Pg 212, & #190, pg 259
Dimensions: Diameter: 3.9 cm (1.53 inches)
Condition: Incomplete, once side missing. An excellent study example displaying the manufacturing process.
Provenance: J. B. private collection, London, acquired in the 1990s from the English trade.