February 2020

Mycenaean glass diadem or necklace

This beaded jewellery (ΜΔ 2566) is dated to the 13th c. BC and was found in a cist grave at the LH III cemetery at “Spathes” near the modern village Ayios Dimitrios in Pieria, on the Mt Olympus.

It consists of 17 pressed glass beads, each in the form of a thin rectangular plaque, with a flat plain back, molded relief decoration on its front side, and miniscule holes along its narrow ends. Two (A-B) distinct types of beads are discerned on the basis both of their shape and relief decoration. Type A is represented by ten beads made of blue glass, with straight narrow ends in the form of a pierced bar with fine vertical ribs; the central panel of the beads are decorated with a stylized ivy leaf and a dotted rosette in its center, both in relief. The remainder seven beads (Type B) are made of blue-green glass and have a straight narrow top edge in the form of a pierced bar with fine vertical ribs, and a convex bottom edge. Their main relief decoration consists of three relief spirals. All beads are made in an open mould.

These types of glass beads were quite common throughout the Greek Mycenaean world, both in the core and in the peripheral areas. This artefact, in particular, is among the most characteristic examples of Mycenaean glass ornaments. It was used for personal adornment, as a diadem or a necklace, both in life and in death, as indicated by the in situ discovery of other similar items either round the skull or the neck of the dead, men and women. Such diadems or necklaces may also have served as valuable and prestige items with magical-religious and symbolic connotations, due both to their material (blue glass) and their ornamental motifs.