Diadem of semi-precious stones and gold

From the burial of a woman at Abydos, Egypt
Naqada II period, around 3250 BC

Diadem found on the head of a woman, holding a veil in place over her face

The wide red bands of garnet beads of this diadem are flanked by chips of malachite and turquoise, between which are four strands of tiny gold rings. All the materials were locally available in ancient Egypt. Garnet could be found near Aswan, as well as in the Eastern Desert. This semi-precious stone was made into beads until the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), when it fell from favour (perhaps due to the small size of the stones). Malachite and turquoise occur near copper deposits, probably found in the Eastern Desert, and also in Sinai. The gold used in the Predynastic period was not mined. Small nuggets of alluvial gold were washed into the valleys of the Eastern Desert by flash floods.

A burial containing jewellery made of gold and semi-precious stones does not necessarily indicate that the deceased was of high status, or even wealthy. Apart from the diadem, the burial of this woman at Abydos contained quite ordinary objects including black-topped pots and a coarse flint knife, which was probably funerary in function. It seems that the diadem was the first and only luxury item that the woman acquired. The placing of the most valuable items on the body is consistent with later funerary practice.

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More information


A.J. Spencer, Early Egypt, The rise of civil (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)

C.A.R. Andrews, Catalogue of Egyptian antiqu-5 (London, The British Museum Press, 1981)

C.A.R. Andrews, Ancient Egyptian jewellery (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Length: 33.600 cm

Museum number

EA 37532


Gift of the Egypt Explorations Society


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