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Everyday Life: Pins, Jewellery, and a Make-up Palette

About the exhibition

In ancient times, long before the invention of zips, velcro or even buttons people had to fasten their garments with pins and thread. You would stick the pin through both parts of the fabric and wind a thread around it until it was fixed and could not move. Such pins were frequently made of bronze, but of course there were fancier ones made of gold or silver, and perhaps even decorated with precious stones. In the Raqqa collection in its present state after destruction and looting at least several bronze pins have survived.

Of course, the people in ancient times knew how to sew. Their sewing needles were made of bone, sometimes of ivory. Threads consisted of wool - from sheep, goats or camels -, cotton and silk. One tool of the wool-production can be found on every excavation site: spindle whorls. With these the raw wool would be spun to long threads, which then were woven or otherwise processed.

Cotton production was known in the Indus valley at least since the 6th millennium from where it reached the west. Silk production originated in China and spread also via the Indus valley to the west. From historical documents of the 17th century we know that in the Balikh valley plantations of mulberry trees existed for sericulture, the rearing of silkworms, and enable silk-production.

Awls which were necessary for leatherworking were also fabricated from bone. As a strong sewing material served animal sinews.

One of the bronze pins shown here is actually a multi-purpose object with two differently shaped tips: it could be a cosmetic or perhaps even a medical instrument. As a cosmetic tool it was used to apply kohl (kajal) or perfumed oil, and as a medical instrument it served as a spatula. The cosmetics or make-ups could be spread on stone palettes like our No. 463 and then applied with the pin.

Unfortunately today no jewellery made of precious materials is preserved in the Museum. Besides the pins which can count as a special kind of attire, very simple, but popular ornaments are left: Rings made of shell could be used in many different ways, as finger rings, combined with other beads as necklaces or even sewn as a decoration on fabric.

No. 205 Spindle whorl. Tall Sabi Abiad, Alabaster (?), Dm: 3,9 cm; H: 0,5 cm
No. 251 Spindle whorl. Provenance unknown, Pottery, Dm: 7,2 cm; H: 0,7 cm
No. 725 Pin. Provenance unknown, Bronze, L: 19 cm; Dm: 0,3 cm
No. 722 Pin. Tall Ghanem al-Ali, Bronze, L: 10,0 cm; Dm: 0,3 cm
No. 807 Pin. Tall Ghanem al-Ali, Bronze, L: 13,0 cm; Dm: 1,0 cm
No. 758 Tool. Provenance unknown, Bronze, L: 20,0 cm; Dm: 1,1 cm
No. 897 Pin / Spatula. Tall Sabi Abiad, Bronze, L: 11,7 cm; Th: 0,3 cm
No. 463 Make-up palette. Provenance unknown, Flint, W: 9,9 cm; L: 7,5 cm; H: 0,8 cm
No. 720 Shell rings. Tall Sabi Abiad, Shell, Dm: 2,2 cm; Th:0,3 cm
No. 806 Beads. Provenance unknown, Bone, Dm: 0,7 cm; Th: 0,1 cm