Ornaments and Amulets: Ancient Carved Ambers for Women, by Women?

Art historian Faya Causey discusses antiquity's fascination with amber and the many ways this luminous material was used to create jewelry, amulets, and other objects of prestige. She showcases the impressive carved ambers at the J. Paul Getty Museum as well as masterpieces from the collections.

Amber has fascinated humankind since the Paleolithic era. In the ancient world, the precious material (once tree resin that metamorphosed over millions of years into a hard, translucent, plastic-like polymer) was treated in its raw state, used to perfume oils and creams, ground into medicines, and burned as insence and formed into jewelry, amulets, and other objects of prestige. It was dedicated to the gods and buried with the wealthy and powerful, especially women and children. Women may even have created some amulets. Showcased are a group of remarkable amber carvings at the J. Paul Getty Museum and maasterpieces from other collections. Faya Causey has authored two recent publications on amber for the Getty, Amber in the Ancient World and an online scholarly catalogue of the collection, Carved Ambers in the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Co-presented with USC's Dornsife College International Museum Institute.

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Head of a Female Divinity or Sphinx, unknown, Etruscan, 550 - 520 B.C., amber, 3/8 x 15/16 x 5/8 in.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, Gift of Gordon McLendon, 77.AO.81.4