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Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Late Antique Nubia, Sudan


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Outstanding garnet beads were found recently in an elite tumulus dated to the fourth century AD and located at the cemetery of Hagar el‐Beida in the Upper Nubian Nile Valley region. Whereas contacts of Northeast Africa with South Asia have just been proven through analysis of glass beads found in Nubia and dating to the time of intensive Indian Ocean trade, scientific evidence for Nubia's link with the regions to the west was lacking. Laser ablation‐inductively coupled plasma‐mass spectrometry (LA‐ICP‐MS) was used to determine the elemental composition of three garnet beads to gain information about their type and origin. Additionally, we analyzed twelve garnets from two nearby alluvial placer deposits. While the garnet beads are inclusion‐free Cr‐poor and Ti‐rich pyropes related to alkaline mafic volcanic rocks, the local garnet deposits are shown to be inclusion‐rich almandines and thus unrelated to the investigated Nubian beads. Detailed comparison of data from Merovingian cloisonné jewellery and all known sources of the Cr‐poor and Ti‐rich pyropes shows identical ranges of elemental contents. The source of raw materials for the beads found in Nubia has been not identified with certainty yet, but sources in Portugal and Nigeria are suggested and a connection is shown to similar garnets from Merovingian contexts.
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Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
Chair of Engineering Geology, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany
Institute of Geography and Geology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
Faculty of Chemistry, Biological and Chemical Research Centre, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
Outstanding garnet beads were found recently in an elite tumulus dated to the fourth century
AD and located at the cemetery of Hagar elBeida in the Upper Nubian Nile Valley region.
Whereas contacts of Northeast Africa with South Asia have just been proven through analysis
of glass beads found in Nubia and dating to the time of intensive Indian Ocean trade, scientific
evidence for Nubias link with the regions to the west was lacking. Laser ablationinductively
coupled plasmamass spectrometry (LAICPMS) was used to determine the elemental compo-
sition of three garnet beads to gain information about their type and origin. Additionally, we
analyzed twelve garnets from two nearby alluvial placer deposits. While the garnet beads are
inclusionfree Crpoor and Tirich pyropes related to alkaline mafic volcanic rocks, the local
garnet deposits are shown to be inclusionrich almandines and thus unrelated to the investi-
gated Nubian beads. Detailed comparison of data from Merovingian cloisonné jewellery
and all known sources of the Crpoor and Tirich pyropes shows identical ranges of elemental
contents. The source of raw materials for the beads found in Nubia has been not identified
with certainty yet, but sources in Portugal and Nigeria are suggested and a connection is
shown to similar garnets from Merovingian contexts.
Preliminary evidence showed that garnet beads had been traveling long distances in the
ancient world (e.g. Schüssler et al. 2001; RifaAbou El Nil and Calligaro 2020), although
these artifacts have been studied rarely so far. In recent years, the study of garnet beads
and jewellery using compositional analysis has expanded in many areas of Europe and South
Asia (e.g. Quast and Schüssler 2000; Gilg et al. 2010; Carter 2016; Schmetzer et al. 2017). In
contrast, the region of Northeast Africa has remained largely ignored despite its strategic
*Received 5 March 2020; accepted 31 July 2020
Corresponding author: email
Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246 doi: 10.1111/arcm.12607
© 2020 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford.
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adaptations are made.
location (see RifaAbou El Nil and Calligaro 2020 for an exception). Indeed, it became a
busy road connecting the Mediterranean world with subSaharan Africa and the Indian Ocean
during late antiquity.
According to Harrell (2012), no garnet mine is known from Egypt, but red garnet occurs in
many metamorphic rocks in the Eastern Desert and the Sinai, and probably also in placer deposits
near the same rocks. However, the quality as a gemstone is generally rather poor (J. Harrell, pers.
comm.). Mageed, (1998, 527) mentioned an alluvial industrial garnet occurrence west of
elShereik in the eastern Bayuda Desert in Sudan and reports on a bulk chemical analysis of
the almandinerich garnets derived from biotite gneiss. No scientic provenance studies have
been conducted so far on garnets from archaeological sites in Nubia (Figure 1A).
Garnet beads were used in Nubian beadwork at least from the period of the AGroup culture
(ca. 3,200BC) when they appeared in royal tombs, and they can be paralleled to specimens
known from the Naqada culture graves in Egypt (Andrews 1981; ThenObłuska Forthcoming).
This association of garnet stones with Nubian elites is observed later on in the Nobadian royal
graves of Qustul and Ballaña, dated to the fourthsixth century AD, where garnet cabochons
decorated silver crowns (Emery and Kirwan 1938). Following the scientic identication of
South Indian/Sri Lankan glass beads in Roman and early Byzantine Northeast Africa (Then
Obłuska and Dussubieux 2016; ThenObłuska and Wagner 2019) and Europe (Pion and
Gratuze 2016), as well as Indian and possibly Sri Lankan garnets in Europe and the Mediterra-
nean (e.g., Quast and Schüssler 2000; Calligaro et al. 2002; Gilg et al. 2010, 2018; Périn and
Calligaro 2016; Calligaro and Périn 2019; RifaAbou El Nil and Calligaro 2020), the question
about the source of garnets found in contemporary Nubia was raised.
From the third century BC until the third century AD, the Nubian Kingdom of Meroe
probably extended as far south as the conuence of the Blue and the White Nile, and beyond;
in the north, it was separated from Egypt by Lower Nubia. Three entities emerged between the
fourth and sixth centuries AD after the fall of Meroe: Nobadia in Lower Nubia, Early Makuria
in Upper Nubia, and Alwa (Alodia) in the region south of the Fifth Cataract. The early
Nobadian royal and elite cemeteries were located at Qustul and Ballaña at the end of the fourth
and in the fth century AD (Emery and Kirwan 1938; Farid 1963). Following excavations in
the south, at Tanqasi, Hammur, ElHobagi, and ElZuma, it was assumed that these tumulus
cemeteries were counterparts to the Nobadian elite cemeteries at Qustul and Ballaña.
Additionally, an exceptionally large tumulus was excavated at the Hagar elBeida cemetery
in the Dar elManasir region, far from any known centre of power, and according to its
excavators, it may have been constructed for a member of the ruling family during the fourth
century AD (e.g., Chłodnicki 2015, 227). The rich equipment of the grave contained, among
other things, outstanding beads of garnet, the identication and provenance of which are the
subject of this paper (Figure 1BC).
This study investigates the geologic and geographic origin by using laser ablationinductively
coupled plasmamass spectrometry (LAICPMS) analysis to determine the composition of these
outstanding orangepurple garnet beads found in the Early Makurian elite tumulus and to
compare them with garnets used in contemporaneous cloisonné jewellery in Europe (e.g., Quast
and Schüssler 2000; Calligaro et al. 2002; Gilg et al. 2010) or with beads in South and Southeast
Asia (Carter 2016; Schmetzer et al. 2017). In addition, we present new chemical and mineral
inclusion data on two garnet occurrences, one in Wadi Abu Dom and another in Wadi elHaraz,
near the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in northern Sudan (Harrell 2012, 2017), and then present
other potential geologic sources for comparison by using a combination of electron microprobe
and LAICPMS analysis.
228 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
In 2003, the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw (PCMA),
together with the Archaeological Museum in Poznań(MAP), joined the international Merowe
Dam Archaeological Salvage Project and examined a 45kmlong belt on the left bank of the Nile
in the easternmost part of the Fourth Cataract region between Shemkhiya and Khor Umm
Ghizlan (e.g. Chłodnicki et al. 2007). The work allowed the project to recreate settlement
Figure 1 AMap of the Nubian localities mentioned in the text (by Sz. Maślak); B beads and pendants from Tumulus
10 at Hagar elBeida 1, T10/14 (MAP 2010:74/1) with modern stringing and composition; C garnet bead samples in
this study (by J. ThenObłuska); D garnets from Wadi elHaraz; E garnets from Wadi Abu Dom (J. Harrell). [Colour
figure can be viewed at]
229Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Nubia
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
patterns and reconstruct the material history of this region through the examination of a few hun-
dred tombs, representing a wide range of periods, and many different settlement sites.
The beads under discussion are stored in the Museum of Archaeology in Poznań, Poland (mu-
seum number: MAP 2010:74/01). They were found in grave 10 at the site of Hagar elBeida 1.
This cemetery, located in the vicinity of the houses of Hagar elBeida village, consists of fourteen
large tumuli (1020m in diameter) of the Late Meroitic/postMeroitic transition or postMeroitic
periods. All the graves were plundered in ancient times, with only a smattering of grave goods
left. Among them is a royal tumulus, T.10, measuring 32m in diameter. The burial chamber
was lined with bricks and furnished with a bricklined shaft. A 2mhigh enclosure surrounded
the grave structure, which was subsequently covered with a mound reaching 5m in height. Scarce
human skeletal remains were found. The tumulus was dated to the Late Meroitic/PostMeroitic
period, the fourth century AD (Chłodnicki 2015, 227). The main chamber still contained three
ceramic pots, three copperalloy bowlstwo with a masterful lotusower ornamenta
ladlepot and a small cup, as well as a dozen iron arrowheads of different types (e.g. Chłodnicki
et al. 2007; Chłodnicki and Stępnik 2013). Other nds from the ll included copperalloy rings
as well as beads and pendants. These were blue glass oblates, faience long cylinders and a ram
amulet, ostricheggshell discs, diorite oblates, quartz and carnelian teardrop pendants, carnelian
barrels and short bicones, and garnet cylinders (Figure 1B). All beads and pendants were com-
mon types found in late Meroitic and postMeroitic Nubia, except 28 standard to long cylinder
and barrel garnet beads, three of which were chosen as the sample in this study.
Two genetically similar garnet deposits of rather good quality have been recently discovered
near Karima in the western Bayuda Desert close to the Nile (Harrell 2012, 2017) and are included
in this study. The Wadi Abu Dom occurrence is located at 18°27.35N, 31°54.16E, about 5km to
the east of Merowe airport, and the Wadi elHaraz occurrence is located at 18°38.48N, 32°1.44
E, about 3km to the south of the Merowe Dam on the righthand side of the Nile (Figure 1A, D, E).
Both garnetrich alluvial placer deposits are located in small wadis within the Precambrian
highgrade gneisses and mica schists (Rahaba Series) in the Bayuda Terrane of the Saharan
Metacraton (Barth and Meinhold 1979; Küster and Liégeois 2001; Abdelsalam et al. 2002; Küster
et al. 2008; Evuk 2013). Six crystals from each deposit were sampled in this study.
The Hagar elBeida garnet beads are cylinders or barrels with large hole openings (Figure 1BC).
They were drilled from one end, which resulted in a cylindrical shape of perforation, and only
pecked or punched from the other end to make the nal hole opening. They lack a saw mark
across the hole opening at the end, which is a diagnostic feature for contemporary Egyptian
and Nubian stone bead and pendant manufacture (e.g., ThenObłuska 2018). The beads measure
2.6 to 2.8mm in diameter and 2.7 to 4.4mm in length. In comparison to other garnet beads
known from Egypt at that time (ThenObłuska 2015, Figs. 2:19 and 3:13 for likely Indian or
Sri Lankan lentoid, tabular, and biconical purple garnet beads drilled from both ends and found
at the early and late Roman Red Sea port site of Berenike; RifaAbou El Nil and Calligaro 2020,
Fig. 11:4 for globular and lentoid beads of Indian garnet and drilled from both ends as found at
Alexandria), they are distinguishable by their cylindrical body and perforation method and shape,
large hole opening, orange to purple colour, and high translucency. They seem to have been
imported as readymade products. No parallels for these beads have been traced so far in
Egypt and Nubia.
230 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
Additionally, twelve crystals from the Nubian garnet deposits in Wadi Abu Dom and Wadi
elHaraz were used as reference material in this study. The dark red garnets with a diameter of
up to 2cm are rounded, indicating river transport, and are quite inclusionrich.
The three bead samples (MAP) (Figure 1C) were investigated in the Biological and Chemical
Research Centre of the University of Warsaw, Poland by means of laser ablationinductively
coupled plasmamass spectrometry (LAICPMS) to evaluate their elemental composition. LA
ICPMS was selected due to its high sensitivity and minimally destructive character of
measurements. Instrumental settings and data acquisition parameters are given in Supplementary
Data S1.
An Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer NEXION300D (Perkin Elmer SCIEX,
Canada) equipped with the laser ablation system LSX213 (CETAC, USA) was used to monitor
the signals of selected isotopes (
U). All experiments were performed using
Ar as the carrier gas. Four glass standards with known compositions were analyzed:
Archeological Reference Glasses: Corning Glass B (Narich/Cabearing silicates); Corning Glass
C (rich in Pb and Ba); Corning Glass D (K and Carich silicate; Brill 1972, 1999), and standard
glass NIST SRM 610, which was used as the external standard. The preferred reference values
for the NIST 610 were used from GeoReM (
query_pref.asp), while the reference values for Corning Glass were compiled from Brill, (1972
and 1999) and Wagner et al. (2012). The calibration material was measured twice at the begin-
ning and twice at the end of each run to correct for eventual instrumental drift. Three replicate
singlepoint ablations at locations carefully selected on the object surface were carried out on
each sample. Transient signals were recorded and evaluated for the subsequent elemental quan-
tication. The LAICPMS signals were background corrected and integrated using the Excel
program. The results for all samples were calculated with SiO
as the internal standard and the
normalization procedure.
Based on the obtained data, both the precision and accuracy of the results given in Table 1
were found satisfactory. The calculated RSD (%) of results for the samples ranged from 1% to
5% for the main elements and from 1% to 10% for the trace elements, depending on the content
and homogeneity of the particular element distribution.
The reference garnets from Wadi Abu Dom and Wadi elHaraz (AD, EH) were analyzed
with a JEOL JXA 8800L electron microprobe equipped with a wavedispersive Xray spec-
trometer at the Chair of Geodynamics and Geomaterial Research of the JuliusMaximilians
University of Würzburg (e.g., Schmetzer et al. 2017; Gilg et al. 2018). We used an acceler-
ating voltage of 15kV, a beam current of 20nA, beam diameter of 1μm, counting times of 20
s for peak positions and 20s for the background. Natural and synthetic silicate and oxide min-
eral standards or pure element standards supplied by Cameca were used for calibration, the
matrix correction was performed by a ZAF procedure, and the following major and minor el-
ements have been quantied in garnet: Si, Ti, Al, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ca, and Mg. Under these con-
ditions, the detection limit was ~0.05wt.% for most elements, and the analytical precision was
better than 1% relative for all major elements. We set line scans of 9 to 18 spot analyses with
a distance of 200μm through each of the six crystals from Wadi Abu Dom and Wadi elHaraz
231Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Nubia
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
to document element zoning. In summary, 160 spot analyses were performed on the reference
garnets from northern Sudan.
The trace element contents of the reference garnets from Nubia were analyzed using an Agilent
7500c ICPMS with a plasma power of 1,250W and coupled to an Analyte Excite 193 nm laser
ablation system (Teledyne Photon Machines) operated with a He (0.9L/min) and Ar (0.94L/min)
carrier gas mixture, Ar plasma and auxiliary gas. The tests were carried out at Geozentrum
Nordbayern (Economic Geology group) of the FriedrichAlexanderUniversity of Erlangen
Nürnberg (Supplementary Data S1). Ablation patterns were set to single spot analyses with a
20Hz repetition rate, 35μm crater size, and a uence of 4.04 J/cm
. We used an integration time
of 20ms for
Mn and 35ms for
Th, and
U. The NIST SRM 612 glass (Pearce et al. 1997) was used as refer-
ence material for external calibration and the Si values measured by electron microprobe for in-
ternal standards. Element concentrations, detection limits, and analytical errors were calculated
using the GLITTER 4.4.4 software. Two analyses on each Nubian garnet crystal (core and
rim) were performed.
The three inclusionfree, slightly orange beads from Hagar elBeida were measured individually
(MAP26, MAP27, MAP28), and the obtained results are reported in Table 1. They are charac-
terized by high, variable levels of MgO (15.3 to 18.1wt.%) and FeO (12.0 to 15.51wt.%), mod-
erate contents of CaO (4.5 to 5.3wt.%), and low contents of MnO (0.32 to 0.38 wt.%). The garnet
beads thus have a high pyrope content of 58.1 to 66.8mol% and moderate almandine contents
(22.5 to 29.7mol%). Their titanium oxide content is relatively high (0.28 to 0.44wt.%), while
chromium contents are very low but variable (4 to 447ppm). Other trace elements, such as Na,
P, Sc, V, Zr, Co, Zn, and Y, range between about 10 and 150ppm, while many other trace ele-
ments, such as Li, Ce, La, Nd, Ba, Sr, Pb, U, and Th are below their detection limits (<1
ppm). The Hagar elBeida beads thus show typical chemical compositions of Crpoor pyropes
from mantlederived mac melts, such as alkaline basalts, basanites, and kimberlites (e.g., Irving
and Frey 1978; Schulze 2003; Grütter et al. 2004).
The twelve garnets from the two alluvial occurrences near the Merowe Dam, at Wadi Abu
Dom and Wadi elHaraz (Table 1: AD, EH), show identical chemical compositions with high
FeO (30.4 to 35.2wt.%) but low MgO (3.4 to 6.1wt.%) and CaO (0.7 to 1.7wt.%) contents.
The strongly variable MnO values increasing towards the core of the zoned crystals (0.7 to 6.6
wt.%) indicate a prograde metamorphic crystal growth. The garnets are characterized by compar-
atively high Li (16 to 52ppm) and Y (107 to 1,128) contents, moderate contents of P, Sc, V, Cr,
and Zn (20290ppm), and low contents of Ti (<103ppm), Ni (<0.8ppm), Co (<28ppm), and Zr
(<9ppm). The microscopic investigations indicate that these garnets show an inclusionrich
brownish core with a threedimensional network of rutile needles, an intermediate zone with
opaque ilmenite, and often a thin inclusionpoor rim (Figure 2). The main inclusion minerals
are anhedral, transparent quartz crystals, partly as aggregates (<600 μm); opaque euhedral to
rounded ilmenite (<200μm); a threedimensional network of thin rutile needles (only in the core
of the crystals and absent around the ilmenite inclusions) and rare prismatic crystals;
longprismatic apatite (<300μm) with hexagonal graphite akes (<50μm); and up to 200 μm
long sillimanite needles and sheaves mostly along the border between the inclusionrich core
and the inclusionpoor rim (Figure 2). Accessory phases include a small rounded zircon with
232 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
Table 1 Major, minor, and trace element compositions and percentages of endmembers of the garnet beads from Hagar elBeida in the Museum of Archaeology in Poznań(MAP;
by B. Wagner) and of core and rim of zoned garnet crystals from Wadi Abu Dom (AD) and Wadi elHaraz (EH) deposits, northern Sudan (by H. A. Gilg). Major and minor elements
reported as weight percent oxides (wt.%), trace elements as parts per million (ppm), and garnet endmembers as molar percentages (mol%)
5 core
12 rim
8 core
1 rim
8 core
17 rim
13 rim
9 core
13 rim
8 core
13 rim
SiO2 42.11 40.56 41.47 37.02 37.29 37.52 37.19 37.07 37.56 37.03 36.79 37.26 37.39 37.21 37.43
21.32 22.28 22.88 21.90 22.20 21.94 22.12 21.77 21.94 21.68 21.56 21.82 21.58 21.73 21.89
15.24 15.51 12.01 32.59 33.64 31.85 32.52 30.37 32.66 33.58 35.16 32.69 33.07 31.28 32.52
MnO 0.37 0.38 0.32 2.91 2.14 3.59 1.68 6.59 1.60 2.25 0.93 2.76 2.01 4.83 1.90
MgO 15.27 15.35 18.14 4.69 5.05 5.01 6.00 3.71 5.36 4.08 4.22 4.43 4.76 4.15 5.41
CaO 4.99 5.31 4.45 1.39 1.06 1.34 1.12 1.38 1.02 1.59 1.37 1.65 1.65 1.41 1.14
Li <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 29 26 16 16 25 25 52 27 39 31 34 28
Na 131 150 125 ‐‐‐‐‐‐ ‐‐‐‐‐‐
P 122 113 114 117 149 213 147 138 166 65 75 117 118 92 126
Sc 94 99 157 116 135 74 80 116 154 151 185 160 132 127 113
V 147 142 117 111 50 86 65 91 51 311 187 137 122 85 56
Ti 2,637 2,458 1,678 40 33 76 41 132 30 69 29 70 56 47 35
Cr 6 4 447 87 101 21 44 34 89 143 139 86 115 99 139
Zr 44 33 23 6 3 8 5 5 4 3 3 5 6 4 5
Co 74 70 57 22 22 27 28 9 16 16 19 21 21 2 4
Ni 13 <0.2 <0.2 0.3 0.3 0.6 0.4 0.5 <0.3 0.6 0.5 0.5 <0.4 <0.3 <0.2
Zn 27 33 9 58 76 84 81 31 60 196 225 78 80 50 71
Y 58 66 49 313 107 140 139 202 148 1,123 220 862 516 612 315
Almandine 26.5 28.8 22.1 70.4 71.9 68.2 68.9 66 72.2 73.8 76.8 71.3 71.7 68.3 70.9
Andradite 58.9 56.4 65.6 0.3 0.2 0.5 0.7 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.0 0.6 0.0 0.0
Grossular 0.8 0.8 0.8 3.8 2.8 3.4 2.5 3.9 2.9 4.6 3.4 4.7 4.1 4.0 3.3
Pyrope 11.3 11.1 9.8 18.9 20.2 19.9 24.1 14.9 21.3 16.4 17.1 17.7 19.0 16.6 21.5
Spessartine 2.5 2.9 1.8 6.7 4.9 8.1 3.8 15.1 3.6 5.1 2.1 6.3 4.6 11.0 4.3
233Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Nubia
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
Table 1 Continued
SiO2 37.64 38.00 37.28 37.40 37.52 37.32 36.68 37.23 37.58 37.45 37.79 37.63
21.88 22.12 21.61 22.02 22.02 21.90 21.47 21.68 22.06 21.96 22.09 22.04
31.71 32.24 32.24 33.11 32.44 32.49 32.62 34.22 33.53 33.86 32.60 32.71
MnO 3.72 2.02 3.41 2.40 2.24 1.98 4.91 1.02 1.38 0.91 2.14 1.40
MgO 5.25 5.90 4.66 5.09 5.53 5.62 3.37 4.95 5.73 5.71 5.65 5.79
CaO 1.22 1.17 1.27 1.01 1.10 1.10 1.44 1.34 0.80 0.94 1.16 1.14
Li 24 21 22 26 23 21 27 23 20 28 25 21
Na ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐
P 138 137 120 145 120 171 172 127 150 290 147 155
Sc 126 127 116 180 165 147 196 139 149 139 139 135
V 107 59 95 105 58 55 146 160 60 99 57 54
Ti 50 39 65 38 47 39 105 57 33 44 55 48
Cr 34 48 25 182 37 68 99 116 87 103 42 47
Zr 555555963667
Co 2123 7142121172024252426
Ni 0.3 <0.3 <0.4 <0.4 0.4 <0.3 0.5 0.5 0.6 <0.3 0.8 <0.3
Zn 84 83 68 73 83 79 35 53 85 84 78 74
Y 315 271 278 212 335 194 395 311 146 167 412 193
Almandine 67.4 69.1 71.4 70 69.8 69.9 70.8 74 71.9 72.5 69.6 70.7
Andradite 0.9 0.1 0.1 0.5 0.1 0.4 0.9 0.7 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.0
Grossular 2.6 3.2 2.8 3.1 3.0 2.8 3.3 3.2 2.0 2.1 3.0 3.2
Pyrope 20.8 23.2 20.3 18.6 22.0 22.5 13.7 19.8 22.7 22.7 22.3 22.9
Spessartine 8.4 4.5 5.4 7.7 5.0 4.5 11.3 2.3 3.1 2.0 4.8 3.2
234 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
fractures in the host garnet, an almost colourless inclusionrich monazite, rare chlorite and
brownish biotite akes, rounded opaque grains (uraninite?<10μm) with a brownish radiation
halo (~30μm in diameter), and composite sulde grains of pyrrhotite and chalcopyrite. The
Figure 2 Microphotograph of inclusions in garnet. A zoned garnet from Wadi Abu Dom with a brownish core that is
rich in rutile needles, an ilmeniterich intermediate zone, and an inclusionpoor rim; B zoned garnet from Wadi
elHaraz with an inclusionrich core and an inclusionpoor rim; C brownish core with a network of rutile needles,
opaque ilmenites, and an inclusionpoor rim in a garnet from Wadi Abu Dom; D fibrous sillimanite needles at the
boundary between the inclusionrich core and the inclusionpoor rim in a garnet from Wadi Abu Dom; E polycrystalline
quartz inclusion in a garnet from Wadi elHaraz; F prismatic apatite crystal with euhedral graphite flakes in a garnet
from Wadi Abu Dom. [Colour figure can be viewed at]
235Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Nubia
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
major and trace element and mineral inclusion characteristics are indicative of a metamorphic or-
igin for the alluvial garnets, which is derived from metasedimentary protoliths, most probably the
garnet gneisses and schists of the Precambrian Rahaba Series of the Bayuda Terrane (e.g.,
Evuk 2013). The alluvial garnets are shown to be inclusionrich almandines and thus quite dis-
tinct from the investigated beads made of Crpoor, Tirich pyropes, indicating that the garnets
for the beads were not obtained locally.
Crpoor, Tirich pyrope jewellery
Crpoor, Tirich pyropes have been identied in Etruscan, Hellenistic, and Roman engraved gem-
stones dating from the late fourththird century BC to the rst century AD (Formigli and
Heilmeyer 1990; Gartzke 2004; Pappalardo et al. 2005; Gilg and Gast 2012; Thoresen and
Schmetzer 2013). We also noted a single Crpoor pyrope bead mounted in an earring from a Hel-
lenistic grave at Paleokastro in Thessaly, Greece, which was identied by electron microprobe
analysis (Gartzke 2004). LAICPMS analyses of eight garnet beads from southern Cambodia
(Prohear, Bit Meas, and Village 10.8) dating from about 400BC to 200 AD yielded Crpoor,
Tirich pyrope compositions (Carter 2016). A detailed technological study of these garnet beads
indicated the use of stone and copper drills, while the relatively poor shaping and polishing sug-
gest local production (Carter 2016).
Moreover, levels of CaO and Y in the beads from Cambodia
are slightly higher when compared with the Nubian samples (Table 2).
The garnets of the Hagar elBeida beads have similar major and trace element compositions as
those of Type IV (Calligaro et al. 2002, 20062007) or Cluster D (Gilg et al. 2010) garnets in
contemporaneous Merovingian cloisonné jewellery in France and Bavaria, which were analyzed
by particleinduced Xray emission (PIXE) analysis (Table 2, Figure 3). It is the rarest garnet type
observed in early medieval jewellery and was identied in only a few objects, mostly from richly
adorned graves from the late sixth to seventh century AD, including the grave of queen Aregund
at St. Denis, France (Calligaro et al. 20062007), the princely grave of Wittlislingen in Bavaria
(Gilg et al. 2010), or the Visigothic votive crown of Recceswinth in the treasure of Guarrazar
(Guerra et al. 2007).
Crpoor, Tirich pyrope geological deposits and chemical compositions
Various potential sources have been suggested for the origin of Crpoor pyrope garnets in both
ancient and early medieval jewellery, including deposits from Monte Suímo near Lisbon in
Portugal, Elie Ness in Scotland, Mount Carmel in Israel, Shavarym Tsaram in Mongolia, and sev-
eral volcanoes in the Jos and Biu Plateaus in Nigeria (Figure 4) (Gilg et al. 2010; Gilg and
Gast 2012; Gilg and Hyrsl 2014; Périn and Calligaro 2016; Calligaro and Périn 2019). A short
review of the relevant published geological and chemical data that was used while searching
for the source of the Crpoor, Tirich pyrope Nubian beads is presented in Supplementary
Data S2. New highprecision trace element analyses using LAICPMS on the garnets from some
of these deposits are included in Table 2.
All the mentioned deposits of gemquality Crpoor and Tirich pyropes are related to intraplate
explosive alkaline mac volcanic complexes, exposed today at various erosion levels including
We should note that Crpoor pyropes are still today a signicant group of red to slightly orange gem garnets in the jewellery market that
are mostly produced in Thailand (Nong Bon type), Cambodia, Nigeria, and Mongolia (e.g., Lind 2002, 2015; Gilg et al. 2015).
236 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
Table 2 Compositional ranges of the investigated Nubian garnet bead samples from Hagar elBeida (this study) in comparison with garnet beads from ancient Funan (Village
10.8, Prohear, and Bit Meas); Cambodia (Carter 2016); Cluster D garnets in Merovingian cloisonné jewellery from France and Bavaria (Calligaro et al. 2002, 20062007; Gilg
et al. 2010); Jos and Biu Plateau garnet deposits; Nigeria (Frisch and Wright 1971; Irving and Frey 1978; Rankenburg 2002; Lind 2002; this study); the Monte Suímo garnet
deposit, Portugal (Palácios 1985; this study); Mount Carmel, Israel (Esperança and Garfunkel 1986; Mittlefehldt 1986; Kaminchik et al. 2014); Elie Ness, Scotland (this study);
Chantaburi, Trat, and Si Sa Kat, Thailand (Lind 2002; Phichaikamjornwut et al. 2012); Shavaryn Tsaram, Mongolia (Kaminsky et al. 1980; Soumar 2011; Aseeva et al. 2014);
and the Nubian Wadi Abu Dom and Wadi elHaraz garnet occurrences, Sudan (this study). Major and minor elements reported as wt.% oxides and trace elements as parts per
million (by H. A. Gilg)
Garnet beads Hagar
elBeida (ICPMS)
Garnet beads
Cambodia (ICPMS)
Cluster D France/
Bavaria (PIXE)
Jos & Biu Pl. Nigeria
Monte Suimo Portugal
Mt. Carmel Israel
mass% (n = 3) (n = 8) (n = 76) (n = 136) (n = 27) (n = 25)
40.5642.11 40.3742.35 40.0343.55 39.6042.32 40.2341.46 39.9842.22
0.280.44 0.310.41 0.320.52 0.320.51 0.320.51 0.160.71
21.3222.88 22.0223.29 21.8024.11 22.2824.17 22.3823.47 21.0323.23
FeO 12.0115.51 10.6313.27 8.3215.48 8.9815.65 10.3615.28 11. 4716.70
MnO 0.320.38 0.370.48 0.270.43 0.300.51 0.320.51 0.350.66
MgO 15.2718.14 13.9617.38 13.6319.87 14.1519.58 15.0119.11 13.4018.14
CaO 4.455.31 5.886.89 4.585.92 4.936.19 5.115.89 5.037.23
ppm (n = 3) (n = 8) (n = 76) (n = 24) (n = 28) (n = 5)
Li <0.1 <0.2
P113131 139141
Cr 4447 1161 3780 66372 8595 30450
Zr 2344 3957 087 1957 3447 4066
Sc 94157 64132 33114 55195
V117147 144190 32195 100142 132162 95317
Co 5774 6269 6869 4962
Zn 933 3445 16240 3241 2643 4065
Y4958 62101 25102 4387 5063 2097
237Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Nubia
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
Elie Ness Scotland
Chantaburi, Trat Thailand
Shavaryn Tsaram Mongolia
Wadi Abu Dom Sudan
Wad i e l Haraz Sudan
mass% (n = 84) (n = 11) (n = 52) (n = 83) (n = 74)
40.8842.58 40.0941.27 39.5841.22 36.6437.76 36.6838.00
0.340.52 0.420.53 0.470.76 0.000.08 0.000.13
22.7223.23 22.1223.39 21.2123.53 21.5622.34 21.3822.39
FeO 9.8711.55 9.9413.37 13.5017.42 30.3735.16 31.2434.22
MnO 0.270.46 0.310.39 0.150.64 0.716.59 0.904.91
MgO 17.9119.48 15.6519.06 14.0416.10 3.686.09 3.376.13
CaO 5.045.49 4.835.52 5.206.30 1.021.73 0.681.65
ppm (n = 30) (n = 12) (n = 12)
Li <0.2 1652 2028
P 65213 120290
Cr 2061,616 21143 25182
Zr 3854 3839
Sc 118191 74185 116196
V 135170 50311 54160
Co 228 726
Zn 2431 31225 3585
Y5562 1121,123 146412
238 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
dykes (Monte Suímo), diatremes (Elie Ness), and cinder cones (Dusten Dushovo, Shavaryn
Tsaram). Is there a hitherto unknown occurrence of Crpoor, Tirich pyropes in alkaline mac
volcanic rocks in Nubia? About 100km to the south of Hagar elBeida, a signicant Quaternary
(<1.5Ma) basaltic volcanic eld is located in the central Bayuda Desert (Almond et al. 1969;
Barth and Meinhold 1979; Almond et al. 1984). Mesozoic to Quaternary alkaline mac igneous
rocks also occur in the southern Egyptian Delo, and Sudans Darfur volcanic elds (Franz
et al. 1987; Lucassen et al. 2008). Garnet has, however, never been described in any of those
occurrences of mac alkaline rocks, and the rare mantle xenoliths (Lucassen et al. 2008, 2013)
are all spinel bearing, indicating a rather shallow source for the volcanic rocks. Thus, a regional
source for the Hagar elBeida garnets is not very likely.
We note that the Crpoor, Tirich garnets from these potential sources have comparable ranges
of major, minor, and trace element compositions, with the exception of garnets from Mount
Carmel, Israel, and Shavaryn Tsaram, Mongolia, which show slightly more variable contents
of TiO
, MnO, and CaO (Table 2). We also note that these latter two deposits contain other types
of pyropes with signicantly more chromium (>0.1 mass% Cr
) and less titanium (<0.2 mass%
Figure 3 Plots showing chemical compositions of the Hagar elBeida beads as large yellow triangles and the reference
samples from Wadi Abu Dom and Wadi elHaraz deposits as large orange diamonds in comparison with the known Ro-
man and early medieval garnet types of clusters A to G (Quast and Schüssler 2000; Mannerstrand and Lundqvist 2003;
Calligaro et al. 20062007; Gilg et al. 2010; Thoresen and Schmetzer 2013; Schmetzer et al. 2017 and unpublished data
H.A. Gilg). The sources for cluster A and F garnets are unknown; cluster B garnets derive from mines in the Rajmahal
district, Rajasthan, India; cluster C types come from an unknown source in southern Sweden; cluster D comes from Monte
Suimo, Portugal, or the Jos and Biu Plateaus, Nigeria; cluster E is from the Bohemian Midlands, Czech Republic; and
cluster G is from the Garibpet deposit, Telangana, India. The grey dots represent garnets with variable compositions
and inclusion characteristics that are distinct from the hitherto defined clusters and derive from various, unknown de-
posits but may contain new minor clusters (by H.A. Gilg). [Colour figure can be viewed at]
239Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Nubia
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
), and both contain mantle xenoliths. The Mg concentrations of the Crpoor, Tirich
pyropes are strongly and positively correlated with Cr and negatively with FeO, CaO, and MnO.
The pyropes generally are devoid of mineral inclusions. Very rarely, suldes, such as
pyrrhotite, have been described in garnets from Elie Ness (Upton et al. 2003).
Thus, we can conclude that a geographic origin for Crpoor, Tirich pyropes, including the
three Nubian beads analyzed here, is not possible based on chemical analysis alone. Therefore,
other arguments must be included in the provenance discussion.
A possible source of the Crpoor pyrope beads according to textual and archaeological data
There is no onsite archaeological evidence for mining the garnets in antiquity at any of the
potential deposits. However, two long open pits (Mina Grande and Mina Pequena) are still
visible at the site of Monte Suímo and they are related to mining in early modern times which
destroyed all potential remnants of earlier mining activities (e.g., Cachão et al. 2010; Cardoso
et al. 2011; Gilg and Hyrsl 2014).
Only two of the potential deposits, Monte Suímo in Portugal and the Jos and Biu Plateaus in
northern Nigeria, can be linked to sources known in antiquity, which are mentioned by Pliny the
Elder. While mining for carbuncles near Lisbon was mentioned in Pliny the EldersNaturalis
Historia (e.g., Eichholz 1962), and a Portuguese source of garnet beads found in Nubia cannot
be excluded, the import of Crpoor pyrope garnets from the Nigerian deposits would not be
Figure 4 Map with the location of the known deposits of Crpoor, Tirich pyropes (by H.A. Gilg). [Colour figure can be
viewed at]
240 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
completely impossible in light of the transSaharan trade between the Garamantes and Northeast
Africa (e.g., Duckworth et al. 2016; Mattingly 2017). The Garamantes emerged as a major re-
gional power in the mid2nd century AD, establishing a kingdom in the Fezzan region of
southern Libya. The state began to decline in the fth century. The knowledge of the Garamantes
as farmers and merchants who had connections with both subSaharan and northern Africa comes
from contemporaneous foreign Greek and Roman accounts and modern archaeological and
anthropological ndings (e.g. Nikita et al. 2010).
Gilg et al. (2010) proposed that the Nigerian Crpoor pyropes might be related to the
Garamantian or Karchedonian carbuncles mentioned by Pliny the Elder. References in ancient
sources indicate that the Libyan Desert was a source of carbunculi: transparent red gemstones
generally interpreted as garnet. While gemstones are not attested in the geological strata of
Fazzan (southwest Libya), a range of silicabased stones including chert, chalcedony, agate,
and carnelian are known to originate in this area and are linked to the Garamantes. According
to Gliozzo et al. (2014), carnelian is the most certain of a range of materials described by Pliny
as carbunculi and coming from a Saharan context (Pliny, NH 5.37: Mons Giri in quo gemmas
nasci titulus praecessit). However, sardion/sarda was the term used for carnelian in
Greek/Roman sources (Harrell 2012). Strabo referred to Carthaginian stonesbrought from
the Saharan mountains and linked them to the Garamantian territory (Geography, 17.3.11;
17.3.19, the land from where Carthaginian stones were brought). Still, carbunculi could
have reached ancient Rome and Meroe through the Garamantes acting as intermediaries.
Archaeological excavations of a Garamantian cemetery site near Jarma in western Libya
(Mattingly et al. 2008) have unearthed an engraved garnet intaglio.
Although there are no data on Crpoor pyropes from the archeological sites in northern and
subSaharan Africa, it is very probable that the transSaharan contacts of the Garamantes reached
as far as the West African garnet sources. Recent work has revealed evidence for the presence of
Roman and probable early Byzantine material in parts of subSaharan West Africa (Fenn
et al. 2009; MacDonald 2011; Magnavita 2013). Commercial activities between the Garamantes
and the Roman Empire are documented (Schörle 2012; Wilson 2012), and pottery studies suggest
contacts between the Garamantes and the Kingdom of Meroe (Gatto 2010).
Crpoor pyrope garnets, whether of Nigerian or Portuguese origin, could also have reached
Upper Nubia along one of the Western Desert routes, the Darb elArbain or Wadi Howar, or
along the Nile, together with Egyptian and Mediterranean commodities (e.g., ThenObłuska
and Wagner 2019 for Egyptian and Levantine bead glass in the Nubian Nile Valley; and Emery
and Kirwan 1938 and Török 1988, 1989 for the abundance of imports proving Nubias close
links with late Roman Egypt; ThenObłuska 2017 for Mediterranean Sea coral).
Although there is no archaeological evidence that would allow tracing direct contacts between
the West European or Saharan cultures with Nubia, a distribution of the South Indian/Sri Lankan
glass bead imports in all regions suggests a farreaching global net of connections along the trade
routes in late antiquity (e.g., Dussubieux et al. 2010; ThenObłuska and Wagner 2019; Pion and
Gratuze 2016, Fig. 11; Duckworth et al. 2016).
Inclusionrich almandines from Nubia and their likely use in Egypt
Our chemical and mineralogical data for inclusionrich almandines from the Nubian sources in
Wadis Abu Dom or El Haraz can be compared with the recently published data for the garnets
found in a workshop in 6
century AD Alexandria (RifaAbou El Nil and Calligaro 2020). Some
of the analyses attributed by RifaAbou El Nil and Calligaro (2020) to Type 2 samples
241Western Connections of Northeast Africa: The Garnet Evidence from Nubia
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
[corresponding to cluster A], e.g. G007, G022, G031, G033, G041, actually show signicant
overlap in chemical composition and mineral inclusion assemblages, including brous silliman-
ite and a network of rutile needles, suggesting that part of these garnets may actually not come
from India as inferred by the authors but rather from a northeastern African source.
Unfortunately, no systematic study of inclusions in the Alexandrian garnet objects was conducted
and the quality of chemical analyses, especially for the major components silicon and aluminium,
are overall very poor with deviations of several wt.%. Further studies on the Alexandrian garnets
are warranted.
The chemical compositional study, using LAICPMS, allowed identication of the Crpoor,
Tirich pyrope garnet beads found in a late antique elite tumulus in the Fourth Nile Cataract
region. The garnets of the Hagar elBeida beads have similar major and trace element
compositions as garnets in contemporaneous Merovingian cloisonné jewellery. A comparison
with data from Sudanese garnet deposits excluded the local origin of these stone beads. The
evaluation of data from all known sources of Crpoor, Tirich pyropes (Portugal, Scotland,
Israel, Mongolia, Thai, Cambodia, and Nigeria) shows similar ranges of chemical composition;
thus, it is impossible to precisely determine their origin. Moreover, the Mount Carmel and
Shavaryn Tsaram deposits are characterized by larger chemical variations than the other deposits
and artefacts, and the Thailand and Scotland sources seem to be too far, which makes them less
likely to be connected with the beads found in Nubia. Nevertheless, there is no archaeological
onsite evidence for mining the garnets at any of the potential deposits in antiquity and only some
literary evidence for probable mining at Mont Suímo in Portugal and the Jos and Biu Plateaus in
Nigeria. Both options seem to be the most likely, taking under consideration the Nubian
connections with late Roman Egypt and the transSaharan Garamantian trade and the association
of this tribe with carbunculi in ancient sources. Hopefully, future nds of garnet beads in Africa
and Europe, and their analysis, will allow us to better trace a route to the source of the raw
material that was used to produce the beads found in Nubia.
J. ThenObłuska would like to thank Prof. Marzena Szmyt and Dr. Marek Chłodnicki for making
the study of beads from the Archaeological Museum in Poznańpossible. H. Albert Gilg
acknowledges the help of Dr. Helene Brätz, University of Erlangen, during the LAICPMS
analyses and Norbert Hommrichhausen during the EMPA work. Prof. Jim Harrell, Dr. Rupert
Hochleitner, Dr. Thomas Lind, Dr. Kai Rankenburg, Prof. Brian Upton, and Dr. Peter Davidson
provided pyrope samples from Sudan, Portugal, Nigeria, and Scotland. We thank Prof. Alison
Carter, Prof. Bill Grifth, Dr. Lisa A. Heidorn, Vered Toledo, and David Apter for discussion,
and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions on the improvement of this article.
The peer review history for this article is available at
242 J. ThenObłuska et al.
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Additional supporting information may be found online in the Supporting Information section at
the end of the article.
Data S1 Supplementary Information: Instrumental settings and data acquisition parameters.
Data S2 Supplementary Information: Review of geological and chemical data from Crpoor
deposits in Europe, the Near East, Southeast and East Asia, and Africa.
246 J. ThenObłuska et al.
© 2021 The Authors. Archaeometry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of University of Oxford., Archaeometry 63, 2 (2021) 227246
... A gránátberakások kémiai összetétele MgO-CaO kétváltozós diagramon ábrázolva az elektronmikroszondás EDX adatok alapján. A potenciális gránátlelőhelyek osztályozásának alapja: Greiff (1998) ;Quast & Schüssler (2000); Mannerstrand & Lundqvist (2003); Calligaro et al. (2002); Gilg et al. (2010;; Then-Obłuska et al. (2021). A szürke terület változatos kémiai és gemmológiai jegyekkel rendelkező gránátokat foglal magába, amelyek különböző, ismeretlen telepekből származnak és lehetséges új klasztereket alkotnak. ...
... Sárga: eredeti ékkőberakások; piros: pótlás. Diagram: Mozgai Viktória Greiff (1998), Quast & Schüssler (2000), Mannerstrand & Lundqvist (2003), Calligaro et al. (2002), Gilg et al. (2010;; Then-Obłuska et al. (2021). The grey area represents garnets with variable chemical and gemmological characteristics that derive from various, unknown deposits and cover possible new clusters: yellow circle: Sri Lanka (Elahera?) ...
... századforduló vízválasztó időszak a provenienciakutatások számának ugrásszerű növekedése miatt. A műszeres analitikai módszerek fejlődésével és gyarapodásával egyre több külföldi és hazai régészeti gyűjtemény ékköves anyagáról készült archeometriai elemzés (a legfontosabbak : Greiff 1998;Calligaro et al. 2002;Mannerstrand & Lundqvist 2003;Gilg et al. 2010;Horváth & Bendő 2011;Schmetzer et al. 2017;Calligaro & Périn 2019;Pion et al. 2020;Then-Obłuska et al. 2021). A nemzetközi kutatás eredményei alapján az elmúlt évtizedekben folyamatosan fejlődik a régészeti korokban felhasznált gránátok geokémiai (ásványkémiai) meghatározása és osztályozása. ...
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A nagyváradi csüngő különleges tárgy, annak ellenére, hogy típusára, kialakítására nézve nem rendkívüli darab a polikróm ötvösmunkák körében. Ráadásul régészeti kontextusa is ismeretlen, mivel szórványként került elő. Ezt a gránátberakásos aranyékszert sajátos története emeli ki a többi közül, ami több szálon és több idősíkban fut. Előkerülése a régmúlt időkbe nyúlik vissza, amikor az efféle tárgyakra inkább személyes kincsként, mintsem régészeti leletként tekintettek. Ez adhat magyarázatot arra, hogy a tárgy, megtalálását követően, újra használatba került. A csüngő történetéből egy család története bontakozik ki, közel hozva a 19. századi szellemiséget. Az egykori kézműves munkájához pedig egy modern ötvös kapcsolódott, aki a régit újjal kiegészítve egyedülálló alkotást hozott létre. A nagyváradi csüngő személyes tárgy volt, és a régészeti leletek többségével szemben, előkerülése után is az maradt még egy jó ideig. Bár végül múzeumba került, viszonylag kevéssé ismert; nincs kiállítva és alig szerepel a szakirodalomban. Ami pedig korábban megjelent róla, az is átértékelésre szorul. Jelen írásunk ezen az állapoton kíván változtatni, bemutatva és értelmezve a tárgyon elvégzett szisztematikus archeometriai vizsgálat eredményeit. A komplex elemzések segítségével sikerült meghatározni a tárgy anyagi és technológiai jellemzőit: az ékkőberakások gemmológiai és ásványtani sajátosságait, a fémes alapanyag kémiai (elemi) összetételét, a készítés egyes munkafázisait. Az eredmények kiértékelésével olyan alapvető kérdésekben juthattunk előrébb, mint a gránátok eredete, kereskedelme, az arany alapanyag lehetséges előélete, a készítés infrastrukturális háttere, továbbá a tárgy keltezése és kulturális kontextusa. A csüngő azon ritka esetek közé tartozik, amikor az ékkőberakások megmunkálásának módja, technikája korjelző szerepet játszik. Ennek a felismerésnek különösen egy szórvány lelet esetében van régészeti jelentősége. A tárgy ez alapján a hun korban, az 5. század első felében készülhetett, fémes alapanyaga nem származhatott közvetlenül másodlagosan felhasznált római solidus-ból, de részben tartalmazhatott ilyen minőségű aranyat. Jelenlegi ismereteink szerint, eredeti gránátberakásai Srí Lankából, ékkőpótlása pedig a 19. századi Csehországból eredeztethető.
... Provenance studies of the tiny garnet inlays have come into focus since the end of the last century. Thousands of analyses and many field trips in present-day, or at one-time, mine districts facilitated their increasingly detailed geochemical characterisation (recently: Schmetzer et al., 2017;Calligaro and Périn, 2019;Then-Obłuska et al., 2021). The identification and comparison of (mineral and fluid) inclusions and chemical compositions (major, minor and trace elements) with similar datasets of recent geological samples has proved to be the key to the localisation of potential geological sources. ...
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The use of non-destructive and non-invasive analytical methods is widespread in the archaeometric study of metal objects, particularly in the case of precious metal artefacts, from which sampling is not, or in a limited way, allowed due to their high value. In this study, we highlight the main advantages and limitations of non-destructive analytical methods used on three polychrome animal-style silver buckles from the mid-to-late-5th-century Carpathian Basin. Optical microscopic observations, handheld XRF, SEM-EDX and μ-XRD analyses were performed to determine the chemical composition of the metals and their decoration (gilding, garnet and niello inlays), as well as the microtexture and mineralogical composition of the niello, in order to gain a better understanding of the materials used and reconstruct the manufacturing techniques in detail. The buckles were manufactured from relatively high-quality silver derived from the re-use of gilded silver scrap metal and intentionally alloyed with brass or leaded brass. The presence of mercury indicated the use of fire gilding. The niello inlays are composed of mixed silver-copper sulphides, even reaching the composition of pure copper sulphide; this is for the first time, when copper sulphide niello is observed on a silver object. The almandine garnets most probably originate from Southern India and Sri Lanka.
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The reconstruction of the trade routes along which garnets reached Europe in the early Middle Ages demonstrates the persistence of long-distance trade after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Early medieval garnet jewellery from Italy and the presence of lapidary workshops are important evidence for understanding the dynamics of this commerce but are systematically overlooked. Chemical trace-element analysis (LA-ICP-MS) of loose and inset garnets and glass inlays from burials in sixth–seventh-century Lombardy has identified South Asian and Bohemian garnets together with Egyptian glass. This combination shows that the long-distance trade routes crossing the Peninsula and the Alpine passes played a key role in the European market for garnets, significantly modifying the current model of the Mediterranean garnet trade and shedding new light on the character of the elites who emerged in Italy during the Migration period.
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Local mending of ink-corroded areas with a water-based adhesive bears one serious risk: too much moisture transports invisible, detrimental compounds like iron(II)ions and acids out of the ink lines into surrounding paper areas, spreading ink corrosion. Several common mending techniques are compared, the least detrimental was further developed to an effective, safe and applicable conservation method for ink corroded papers. A novel way to control any aqueous mending technique for iron gall inks was developed and is available on the market.
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L’existence à l’époque gréco-romaine d’un grand commerce, principalement maritime mais aussi terrestre, entre le monde indien et la Méditerranée est bien attestée par les textes ainsi que par des indices archéologiques, davantage, en ce qui concerne ces derniers, pour l’Inde que pour l’Occident (Suresh, 2004, 2007). Néanmoins, les sources écrites pouvant témoigner de la continuité de ces échanges durant le haut Moyen Âge sont des plus maigres, du moins du côté occidental, à l’exception de la Topographie chrétienne de Cosmas Indicopleustès (Wolska- Conus, 1973) qui prouve que des textiles précieux, des épices et des gemmes parvenaient toujours en Occident au vie siècle (Doehaerd, 1971). Les sources écrites indiennes et perses, puis arabes, renseignent davantage (Banaji, 2012 ; Christides, 2015). Mais, hormis quelques restes de tissus, conservés dans les trésors d’églises ou issus de fouilles exceptionnelles, comme celles des sépultures mérovingiennes de la basilique de Saint- Denis, les témoins matériels de ces échanges demeurent très rares. Grâce aux fouilles récentes menées en Europe de l’ouest et au développement des études en laboratoire, cependant, il est maintenant possible d’établir qu’au début del’époque mérovingienne, on a utilisé en Gaule des micro-perles de verre de type « indo-pacifique » (Pion et Gratuze, à paraître) et employé massivement dans l’orfèvrerie cloisonnée des grenats provenant d’Inde et du Sri Lanka (Ceylan), ce qui démontre la survivance, au moins jusqu’à la fin du vie siècle, d’échanges suivis entre le subcontinent indien, le monde méditerranéen et l’Occident mérovingien.
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Old manuscripts are among the most important elements of the cultural and historical heritage of ancient knowledge. Unfortunately, many of them suffer from degradation, mostly those written with iron gall inks. In the present work, a study using non-destructive techniques was designed with the aim of analyzing the elemental composition and structural characteristics of iron gall inks, reproduced in laboratory, paper and their interaction when the ink is deposited on paper, inducing the paper degradation. Proton induced X-ray emission, X-ray diffraction and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy provided the elemental and structural information, and photography under infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) light allowed the differentiation between manufactured inks. Results show that the first step of inked paper deterioration is due to acid-hydrolysis of the cellulose and the presence of reactive Fe(II) species by reducing the crystallinity index of the paper, which is affected depending on the ink recipe and the starting raw materials. These results will be useful to future studies on ancient documents written with iron gall inks, which suffer deterioration due to ink corrosion, and to differentiate between the different paper degradation mechanisms.
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Strings of colorful glass beads were a popular commodity traded throughout ancient Nubia in the earlier half of the first millennium AD. Combining macroscopic examination with laboratory analyses (LA-ICP-MS), the author breaks new ground in Nubian studies, establishing diagnostic markers for a study of trading markets and broader economic trends in Meroitic and post-Meroitic Nubia. Archaeometric results, lucidly presented and discussed, identify the origins of the glass from which the beads under investigation were made. The demonstrated South Indian/Sri Lankan provenance of some of the ready-made beads from Nubian burial contexts and a reconstruction of their distribution patterns in Northeast Africa is the first undisputed proof of contacts between Nubia and the Red Sea coast. Reaching beyond that, it shows Nubia’s involvement in the Asian maritime trade, whether directly or indirectly, during a period of intensive interchanges between the 4th and 6th centuries AD.
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Iron-gall inks have been described as complexes of iron ions with gallic or tannic acids, available in gall extracts. To assess this working hypothesis, we have prepared medieval inks using ingredients and methods appropriate to the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. The five historical inks studied were selected based upon research into Iberian written sources of medieval techniques. Results are supported by comparison with iron complexes with a well-characterized phenol counterpart: gallic, ellagic, and tannic acids as well as digalloyl and pentagalloyl glucose; as either precipitates or prepared as inks by adding gum arabic. Raman and infrared spectroscopies show that medieval writing inks could not have been represented solely by iron complexes with gallic acid. Overall, writing inks display the infrared signature of gallotannins, indicating that complexes of Fe³⁺-polygalloyl esters of glucose are also formed. Our results also show that the commercial tannic acid solution is far more complex than the gall extracts, and cannot be used to represent a gall extract (as described in historic written sources). High-performance liquid chromatography–electrospray ionisation, HPLC–ESI–MS, reveals that the concentration of gallic acid varies in the gall extracts, depending on the extraction method and ink recipe. Importantly, in certain recipes, gallic acid is found as a minor compound, when compared with the galloyl esters of glucose.
MA-XRF is a novel macroscopic imaging technique originally developed for easel paintings and recently made available to glass conservators. This paper discusses the first real-life contribution of MA-XRF imaging to a conservation intervention of stained-glass panels. The six panels under study belong to the cathedral building since their creation in 1555-1559 AD. MA-XRF appeared an outstanding tool for first-line screening of stained-glass windows, providing readily interpretable information on glass type, coloring and alteration processes. In particular, the chemical imaging technique allowed distinguishing unambiguously the surviving original glass panes from later additions, thereby ensuring a correct historical understanding. From a more practical point of view, the experiments supplied accurate schemes that can be directly incorporated in condition reports and assist designing the ensuing conservation approach.
Iron gall inks are known to be detrimental to the permanence of historic documents. Among the transition metals present, copper is the greatest threat and an open challenge due to the lack of Cu-specific treatments. In this study, we address the inhibition of copper by comparing extraction (a newly proposed glucose-based treatment) vs. chelation (phytate-based) approaches in terms of performances in scavenging copper and slowing the degradation rate, and of possibly induced side effects. Results show that the glucose treatment partially extracts copper, but it causes long-term damages to paper, i.e. increased fragility and discoloration. The phytate protocol was found beneficial in inhibiting the catalytic activity of copper-rich inks. It limits both long-term oxidation and hydrolytic breakdown of samples without compromising the visual appearance.