The third pectoral, of Amenemhat III, is the least successful in design. It is made too large in order to take in whole figures of the king fighting; the action is violent; and, not content with four figures, the outlines are lost in a maze of emblems which fill all the space around, so that nothing is clear or restful to the eye. The earliest pectoral was evidently designed to be seen at a respectful distance on royalty in movement. To see the last design the queen would need to be closely stared at, in order to make out the cumbrous historical document on her breast.
Two crowns of gold and inlaid stones belonged also to the princesses. The floret crown (fig.100) is perhaps the most charmingly graceful head-dress ever seen; the fine wavy threads of gold harmonised with the hair, and the delicate little flowers and berries seem scattered with the wild grace of Nature. Each floret is held by two wires crossing in an eye behind it, and each pair of berries has likewise an eye in which the wires cross. The florets are not stamped, but each gold socket is made by hand for the four inserted stones. The berries are of lazuli. In no instance, however small, was the polishing of the stone done in its cloison; it was always finished before setting.
Chased gold pectoral ornaments (XIIth dynasty).
The upper crown (fig. 99) is less unusual. The motive is the old one seen on the head-dress of Nofert (fig. 24); but the flowers have become conventionalised. The band form is broken by the upright flowers rising from each rosette; and in front there was an aigrette of gold with flowers formed of coloured stones.
Turning now to the technical details, some small gold lions were cast, but not all from a single mould. They seem to have been modelled in wax, and after forming the mould around the model the wax was melted out, and the metal run in. This method, known as cire perdue, was usual in later periods. The details are slightly chiselled upon the gold.
Moulding by pressure was used in making cowry beads and tie beads, which were impressed in stout foil, aided by burnishing on to the model so as to tool the detail.
Soldering was done most delicately for the side joints of the hollow cowry beads; it was also used on a large scale for the dozens of delicate ribs of gold which were fixed to the back plates for the cloison work of the pectorals. To attach this multitude of minute ribs exactly in place shows most practised work, for they could not be treated separately, being so close together.
Wire was made in large quantity for the floret crown. This wire was all cut in strips, and pieces soldered together to form a length.) The same method was later used by the Jews: "they did beat the gold into thin plates and cut it into wires" (Ex. xxxix. 3). Drawn wire has not been found in any ancient work. A favourite style of work for figures of gods and sacred animals in this age was a mixture of wirework and sheet metal;) such amulets and sacred animals are usually half an inch high: the example of the sacred cobra here shown (fig. 96) is by far the finest known. A new decoration which first appears in this age is that of granulated work (fig. 101). Here it is seen on a case in a zigzag pattern, and on two pendants. Another example is a pattern of small rhombs on the bezel of a ring. The granules are 5 x 5 in each rhomb, and eight rhombs on the bezel, or forty granules in about six-tenths of an inch; allowing for spaces, the granules must be an eightieth of an inch wide. This kind of work is found also later on in Egypt, but it may not be native; in Etruria it was the national type of jewellery about three thousand years after this.
99, 100. Crowns of gold inlaid with stones.
101. Granulated gold, work (all XIIth dynasty)
The mode of fastening the necklaces was by grooved pieces. One of the gold cowries, or lion's heads, or ties which formed the necklace, was made in two halves with dovetail groove and tongue fitting into each other along the whole length of the piece. The tongue ran up against a butt end when the halves coincided.
When we reach the XVIIIth dynasty we see in the jewellery of Queen Aah-hotep (1570 B.C.) much the same system of work as in the XIIth dynasty. The whole style is less substantial, exact, and dignified; both in design and execution it is at all points inferior to the previous work. One new art appears, the plaiting of gold wire chains, in what is now commonly called Trichinopoly pattern. This method was continued down to Roman times.
The Aah-hotep-Aahmes bracelet (fig. 102) is a broad band of metal, with the figures in raised gold on a dark blue ground. At first it looks as if enamelled, as the ground runs in the small intervals between the gold; but it is really a surface formed of pieces of dark lazuli, cut approximately to the forms and patched around with a dark blue paste to match it. Two other bracelets (or perhaps anklets) are formed of minute beads of stones and gold threaded on parallel wires, forming a band about 1 1/2 inches wide. The pattern seems an imitation of plaiting, as each colour forms a half square divided diagonally. The necklace of large gold flies is heavy, and lacks the grace of earlier times. The axe of Aahmes (fig. 104) is beautifully inlaid with gold, bearing the king's names, the figures of the king smiting ah enemy, and the gryphon-sphinx of the god Mentu. The dagger (fig. 103) has more of the Mykenaean Greek style in the inlaying of the blade, with figures of a lion chasing a bull, and four grasshoppers. The four heads which form the pommel are unlike any other Egyptian design; but the squares divided diagonally on the handle are like the patterns of the bead anklets, and are probably of Egyptian source.