Figure 1
Head of Medusa, Roman, A.D. 1st–2nd century. Amber, H: 5.8 cm (2 3/10 in.), W: 5.8 cm (2 3/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 71.AO.355.
Figure 29
Ram’s Head Pendant, Italic, 500–400 B.C. Amber, L: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), W: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), D: 1.5 cm (3/5 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.81.15. Gift of Gordon McLendon.
Figure 30
Addorsed Lions’ Heads with Boar in Relief Plaque, Etruscan, 500–480 B.C. Amber, H: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), W: 8.2 cm (3 1/5 in.), D: 1.2 cm (1 1/5 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.83. Gift of Gordon McLendon.
Figure 31
Pendant inscribed with two Egyptianizing hieroglyphs, 7th century B.C. Amber, H: 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.), W: 2.2 cm (7/8 in.), D: 0.8 cm (3/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 82.AO.161.285.
Figure 32
Red-figure crater attributed to the Argonaut Group, Etruscan, early 4th century B.C. Florence, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, 4026.
Figure 33
Mirror with Peleus, Thetis, and Galene, Etruscan, Late Classical, ca. 350 B.C. Bronze, Diam.: 16.2 cm (6 3/8 in.). New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1909, 09.221.16.
Figure 34
Necklace, Italic, 550–400 B.C. Amber and gold, L (approx.): 39.5 cm (15 9/16 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.77.5.
Figure 35
Female Holding a Child (Kourotrophos), Etruscan, 600-550 B.C. Amber, H: 13 cm (5 1/8 in.), W: 4.5 cm (1 3/4 in.), D: 1.8 cm (7/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.84. Gift of Gordon McLendon.
Figure 36
Dancing Figure or Head of Satyr, Etruscan or Italic, early 5th century B.C. Amber, legacy dimension: 7.5 x 4.7 cm (2 15/16 x 1 7/8 in.). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Miss C. Wissmann, 02.253.
Figure 37
Winged Female Head in Profile, Etruscan, 525-480 B.C. Amber, H: 7.9 cm (3 1/8 in.), W: 4.9 cm (1 9/10 in.), D: 2.5 cm (1 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 76.AO.85.2. Gift of Gordon McLendon.
Figure 38
Reclining Couple with an Attendant, back wall of the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Tarquinia, Etruscan, ca. 510 B.C. Fresco.
Figure 39
Ram’s Head Pendant, Etruscan, 525–480 B.C. Amber, L: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), W: 2 cm (4/5 in.), D: 1.8 cm (7/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 76.AO.82. Gift of Gordon McLendon.
Figure 40
Figured amulet necklaces in the antechamber of the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Tarquinia, Etruscan, ca. 510 B.C. Fresco. Details from nineteenth-century watercolor painting by G. Mariani.
Figure 41
Lion’s Head Pendant, Etruscan, 550–500 B.C. Amber, H: 2.8 cm (1 1/10 in.), W: 2.2 cm (9/10 in.), D: 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 76.AO.80. Gift of Gordon McLendon.
©J. Paul Getty Trust

Causey, Faya. Amber Medicine, Amber Amulets, Ancient Carved Ambers in the J. Paul Getty Museum
Ed. Faya Causey. Los Angeles: Getty P, 2012. Web. 24 January 2020.
Figure 1 - Head of Medusa, Roman, A.D. 1st–2nd century. Amber, H: 5.8 cm (2 3/10 in.), W: 5.8 cm (2 3/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 71.AO.355. Figure 29 - Ram’s Head Pendant, Italic, 500–400 B.C. Amber, L: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), W: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), D: 1.5 cm (3/5 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.81.15. Gift of Gordon McLendon. Figure 30 - Addorsed Lions’ Heads with Boar in Relief Plaque, Etruscan, 500–480 B.C. Amber, H: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), W: 8.2 cm (3 1/5 in.), D: 1.2 cm (1 1/5 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.83. Gift of Gordon McLendon. Figure 31 - Pendant inscribed with two Egyptianizing hieroglyphs, 7th century B.C. Amber, H: 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.), W: 2.2 cm (7/8 in.), D: 0.8 cm (3/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 82.AO.161.285. Figure 32 - Red-figure crater attributed to the Argonaut Group, Etruscan, early 4th century B.C. Florence, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, 4026. Figure 33 - Mirror with Peleus, Thetis, and Galene, Etruscan, Late Classical, ca. 350 B.C. Bronze, Diam.: 16.2 cm (6 3/8 in.). New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1909, 09.221.16. Figure 34 - Necklace, Italic, 550–400 B.C. Amber and gold, L (approx.): 39.5 cm (15 9/16 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.77.5. Figure 35 - Female Holding a Child (Kourotrophos), Etruscan, 600-550 B.C. Amber, H: 13 cm (5 1/8 in.), W: 4.5 cm (1 3/4 in.), D: 1.8 cm (7/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 77.AO.84. Gift of Gordon McLendon. Figure 36 - Dancing Figure or Head of Satyr, Etruscan or Italic, early 5th century B.C. Amber, legacy dimension: 7.5 x 4.7 cm (2 15/16 x 1 7/8 in.). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Miss C. Wissmann, 02.253. Figure 37 - Winged Female Head in Profile, Etruscan, 525-480 B.C. Amber, H: 7.9 cm (3 1/8 in.), W: 4.9 cm (1 9/10 in.), D: 2.5 cm (1 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 76.AO.85.2. Gift of Gordon McLendon. Figure 38 - Reclining Couple with an Attendant, back wall of the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Tarquinia, Etruscan, ca. 510 B.C. Fresco. Figure 39 - Ram’s Head Pendant, Etruscan, 525–480 B.C. Amber, L: 3.6 cm (1 2/5 in.), W: 2 cm (4/5 in.), D: 1.8 cm (7/10 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 76.AO.82. Gift of Gordon McLendon. Figure 40 - Figured amulet necklaces in the antechamber of the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Tarquinia, Etruscan, ca. 510 B.C. Fresco. Details from nineteenth-century watercolor painting by G. Mariani. Figure 41 - Lion’s Head Pendant, Etruscan, 550–500 B.C. Amber, H: 2.8 cm (1 1/10 in.), W: 2.2 cm (9/10 in.), D: 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 76.AO.80. Gift of Gordon McLendon.

Amber Medicine, Amber Amulets

Because of its beauty, saturated color, and translucency, amber was seen in antiquity not only as an ornament, but also as a supernatural and curative substance. To be overly concerned with the distinction among the roles of amber (sacral, ornamental, magical, medicinal) is perhaps to miss the more subtle relationships among them. Pliny makes no such mistake: “Even today,” he writes, “the peasant women of Transpadane Gaul wear pieces of amber as necklaces, chiefly as adornment, but also because of its medicinal properties. Amber, indeed, is supposed to be a prophylactic against tonsillitis and other affections of the pharynx, for the water near the Alps has properties that harm the human throat in various ways.”[133] “Amber is found to have some use in pharmacy,” Pliny goes on to say, “although it is not for this reason that women like it. It is of benefit to babies when it is attached to them as an amulet.”[134] In this passage, we find one of the two surviving ancient literary references to an amulet of amber, a use (the archaeological evidence tells us) that was pervasive from as early as the mid-second millennium B.C. Caesarius of Arles gives us the other: he warns his readers against wearing “diabolical” amulets made of certain herbs, or of amber, around the neck.[135]

What did these amulets look like? The ones that Pliny refers to may have been perforated and polished raw lumps; or perhaps they were bulla-shaped or crescent-shaped.[136] It is possible that they were made into special shapes, including figural subjects, as had been traditional for amber amulets in northern Europe and around the Mediterranean (and beyond) for millennia. Might one of Pliny’s amulets be similar to the Roman Head of Medusa (figure 1)? Or might they have been like one of numerous surviving small carvings in amber—bird and animal figures, or corn ears and fruit—given as New Year’s presents in imperial Rome? Several of these New Year’s gifts bear inscriptions referring to this occasion, evidence that amber’s magical properties were still significant.[137]

The act of writing on or figuring a material—providing it with a face or a form—gave it new significance and power.[138] One might write on a gemstone or amulet “to create the impression of mysterious power by virtue of the writing itself.”[139] Now, in addition to the associations the material itself carries with it, the figured object has become a metonym for a past event, or a desired outcome, or perhaps for the attributes of a deity (see the rams’-head figures 29 and 39). Such an object derives new significance when it is attached to a person—tied around the neck, perhaps, or fastened to the arm or a girdle. Unsurprisingly, the Greek terms for amulet, periamma and periapta, come from a verb that means “to tie on,” and an amulet worn by a human can be defined, quite simply, as a powerful object attached to a person.[140] Ancient amulets range widely in type, from natural objects[141] to simple carved pendants to figured objects to lamellae, objects inscribed with magical symbols or incantations to ward off evil. The material from which the amulet was made was critical. T. G. H. James suggests, “Although certain materials, semiprecious stones in particular, were invested with magical properties in ancient Egypt, it seems that these properties were usually only activated when the stone in question was used for the manufacture of amuletic figures of specific kinds.”[142]

Almost any jewelry object could have had some apotropaic function—and, as Geraldine Pinch remarks in her book on Egyptian magic, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that most Egyptian jewelry has amuletic value. How conscious wearers were of their ornaments’ symbolism is a more difficult question to answer.[143]

The same is evidently true for amber objects of adornment. In life, amulets were worn as charms to bring good luck, health, protection, or love, to avert danger, or to cure disease. Figured or inscribed amulets often would have had a sympathetic function;[144] a figure of a boar, such as the Getty plaque Addorsed Lions’ Heads with Boar in Relief (figure 30), might have brought luck in a hunt, safeguarded the wearer from the boar he was hunting, or even may have channeled the powers of Herakles or Meleager. Situations of potential crisis, such as a hunt, a dangerous journey, or childbirth, warranted temporary amulets.[145] More permanent amulets, in the form of jewelry, could have provided protection during childhood, throughout an individual’s life, and during the fraught voyage to the afterworld, the dangerous realm of spirits and demons. Indeed, amber and amber amulets were important elements in the mourning ritual as permanent tears and as grave gifts.[146]

The impact of the Aegean, the Near East, and Egypt (where women and children wore the majority of amulets) on native Italian customs during the first millennium B.C., a period of contact and acculturation, is evidenced by the amulets’ subjects. New images, spells, amulets, deities, and aspects of deities replaced, perfected, or married with the old. Although only a portion of the extant figured ambers can be associated with religious cults, the use of amulets was certainly bound up with secret knowledge of sources of power—the province of skilled practitioners such as magicians, priests, “wise women,” healers, and midwives.[147] Practitioners of magic might exert an influence on all levels of society. Theophrastus maintains that Pericles, on his sickbed, was induced by the women of his household to wear an amulet—entirely against his better judgment. The story, whether apocryphal or not, is further evidence for widespread use of amulets among the elite, as well as the lower classes.[148] It is also interesting for its indications about the role of women in promoting such use.[149]

Amulets were especially valuable to women for controlling or increasing fertility, protecting the unborn, helping to ensure safe childbirth, and safeguarding their children. Protective gynecological amulets must have been among the earliest of all amulets. Such practices in Italy and the Greek world were age-old, the lore passing from generation to generation, no doubt affected by contact with new populations, practitioners, and magical practices.

One seventh-century plain pendant in the Getty collection (figure 31) is inscribed with two images, on one side a fish and on the other something resembling the Egyptian symbol of a papyrus clump, or a pool with lotus flowers. This piece is one of forty-three beads from the same parure, its original findspot now unknown. Who scratched the signs? How were they understood? Was the mere presence of Egyptian, or Egyptianlike, writing enough to make the amber more efficacious?

The serious dangers of disease for young children and the considerable risks for women in childbirth and early motherhood gave rise to a belief that the dead were jealous of new life, and the need for magical protection of women and children was a compelling one.[150] For a pregnant woman, amber’s property of encapsulating living things may have made it an especially powerful similia similibus amulet, a “pregnant stone.”[151] Resin also heals damage and wounds in trees; could it extend such properties to people wearing it?

The bulla, a lens- or bubble-shaped container, is perhaps the best known of all ancient amulet types. Known in Rome as Etruscum aurum, it combined two magical functions: it enclosed amuletic substances and it symbolized the sun in material, in form, and in its powers.[152] The shape derives from age-old disk amulets of the sun. The bulla was given to high-born boys. The ancient sources relate that the king Tarquinius Priscus was the first to present his son with a gold amulet after the son had killed an enemy in battle, and from that time onward the sons of cavalrymen wore amulets. Ancient sculpture shows that Etruscan boys wore the bulla, and Roman writers recount that it was worn by magistrates, triumphant generals, and even domestic animals. It should be noted that bullae were made not only of gold, but also of other bright metals such as bronze, as is evidenced by bronze bullae of various forms found in Latin and Etruscan graves, dating as early as the eighth century B.C.

In fourth-century pre-Roman art, the single bulla and strings of bullae, not only lens-shaped but also pouch-shaped pendants, were worn by elite personages, some recognizable divinities and heroes. Dionysos wears a single bulla on the Praenestine “Cista Napoleon” in the Louvre.[153] On an Etruscan red-figure krater in Florence, an Argonaut wears strings of bullae on his arms, while a companion ties on yet another (figure 32).[154] On a sarcophagus from the Tomb of the Triclinium at Tarquinia, a reclining woman wearing a necklace of bullae, holding a thyrsus and kantharos and keeping a fawn by her side, is clearly a devotee or maybe a priestess of Dionysos/Pacha/Fufluns. On Etruscan mirrors, Aplu, Fufluns, Tinia, Epiur and Maris, young Hercle, Thetis and Alcumene, Athena, and Turan wear bullae.[155] Votive images of women, girls, and boys, and effigies of deceased men, women, and babies, are often shown with a bulla or bullae.[156] A mid-fourth-century mirror in New York shows Peleus wearing an armlet with bulla-shaped pendants on her left arm and Calaina (Galene), a Nereid, holding a circlet with similar pendants in her left hand (figure 33).[157]

As early as the eighth century, the bulla was imitated in amber for pendants on necklaces, but it is important to note that documented finds of amber bullae come almost exclusively from elite female burials (figure 34).[158] Strings of amber bullae excavated in Latium and the Basilicata date to the early seventh century. Bullae of amber were special translations of the form: they were sun-shaped and sun-colored, shining like the sun, and instead of containing amuletic substances inside a metal envelope, the material itself was a curative (remedia) that could enclose inclusions.

If amber was fiery and glowing, its most prized characteristics, then this alone might have ensured it a special protective and sanctifying role.[159] Amber could also symbolize constancy. Amber necklaces were gifts for brides, mortal and immortal, as the ancient sources tell us.

Another sympathetic function of amber amulets might have been their ability to focus the powers of a particular deity and astrological force. Amber’s magnetic properties gave it a special role in attraction (and displacement), and because of its already potent associations with the sun, amber may have been thought able to draw, attract, and fix the sun’s influence.[160] Ancient beliefs in the ability of stones to draw down the power of the planets and stars, and especially the rays of the sun, were widespread and are described first in Egyptian texts and later in Hermetic writings on talismans. We might extrapolate from such sources how amber might have worked in this regard. One Hermetic papyrus describes how “the magician draws down to earth the spiritual powers of the star, planets, and fixes them in talismans prepared of the proper substances and engraved with or shaped into the proper symbolic forms.”[161] In early modern Europe, amber, gold, and rubies—all solar materials—were believed, like the sun, to have the property of generating the vital spirit of the microcosmos.

It is not difficult to see how a shiny amber amulet could have been thought to contain sunlight or to allow light to pass through it in some active sense. In Greece and Italy, songs, healing words, spoken prayers, and incantations accompanied such amulets. Roy Kotansky traces the use of written incantations and symbols with amulets back to the rituals of Egypt and the Near East and notes that these “may have been transmitted to Ancient Greece and Italy by traditional folk means, traders, or itinerant medicine men or women.”[162]

There is a relative paucity of information in Greek and Latin literature about amulets and their use, as noted above, and much of the archaeological evidence awaits study. However, what does exist is enlightening, as recent scholarship shows. Some well-known examples indicate how pervasive was the use of “tied-on” substances: Pericles, sick with the plague, was prodded into wearing an amulet around his neck. Socrates in Plato’s Republic lists amulets and incantations as among the techniques used to heal the sick.[163] More is known about Egyptian and Near Eastern amulets, from both written sources and archaeological evidence. Such information may be useful in coming to conclusions about early Greek and Italian use of amulets, but despite the similarities, it would be a mistake to assume that all such usage had Oriental prototypes. Much less is documented about northern European practice, and yet many subjects of the figured amber pendants found in Italy have Baltic precedents that are thousands of years older: standing human figures (figure 35), faces, and detached heads, bears, and hoofed animals.[164]

From the point of view of amber amulet usage in Italy, seven large ambers, four of which are figured—two female heads and two satyrs—found in Tomb 48 at Ripacandida are of great interest.[165] Angelo Bottini has suggested that the objects were not part of a necklace but may have been put inside a pouch or strung together to form a chaplet or a sort of rosary.[166] A chaplet, or circlet, with bulla-shaped pendants held by the figure of Calaina (Galene) on a fourth-century Etruscan mirror (figure 33) is an unusual ornament in Classical art. In Assyrian and neo-Assyrian art, a goddess carries a similar chaplet, or so-called string of beads, as an attribute.[167] Amuletic pouches, containing all sorts of materials and objects, remained popular throughout Italy until the modern era. At the end of the nineteenth century, Giuseppe Bellucci collected and studied hundreds of such protective bags, or sacchettini, many of great age.[168]

Using terms such as necklace, armlet, collar, pectoral, or girdle for worked amber objects minimizes their ties to older amuletic traditions. There is a long history of such strings of amulets (some are seals) throughout Europe, in the Mediterranean littoral, and in the Near East. Such groupings are documented as early as the Early Dynastic period (third millennium) at Ur.[169] Mesopotamian texts specifically refer to figured amulets in the context of protection and healing, amulets that were to be either carried and worn by the living or placed on various parts of the deceased’s body. Strings of amulets are documented as hanging in houses in the ancient Near East. In Greek, Cypriot, and Etruscan art, babies and children (and some Greek young women) are depicted wearing amulets tied onto a long cord worn diagonally across the body. This tradition may well be the ancestor of the Roman crepundia. As Demetrius Waarsenburg argues, the crepundia (charms strung together and used as rattles for children) can be connected to these assemblages of amulets, implying that they originally had a more profound significance.[170]

Although nearly all figured amber pendants excavated in Italy were found in funerary contexts, many of them had “lives” and an owner or owners (not necessarily the deceased) before they became part of the mourning ritual. Interments could contain both old and new pieces. Some may have been heirlooms, already venerable and powerful, made so by provenance, status, or accrued potency.

Some beads and pendants show signs of use—of handling, of pulling on the suspension perforations, of rubbing. Was the rubbing done to enliven the electromagnetic properties of the amber? To release its fragrance? For the tactile sensation? To activate amber’s divine associations? For medicinal and magical purposes? To enact the magic of the amulet’s imagery?

The blurred features of some figured ambers must be due to handling in the course of amuletic use. Several examples from controlled excavations seem to confirm this. A female head from a grave at Latronico retains sharp groovings in the hair and crisp delineations in the diadem, but has smoothed facial features (its tiny chips are likely from modern times). It has a standard perforation through the top of the pendant but also a secondary perforation through the temple area, front to back, which has been elongated by gravity and pull, very like the holes on heirloom Tibetan or African amber beads. The Herakles and satyrs’ heads from a woman’s grave, Tomb 106 at Braida di Vaglio, which may be at least a generation older than the burial, are salient examples of nonuniform use wear. The face of the Herakles pendant is especially worn.[171] Some figured ambers from another of the Braida di Vaglio tombs, Tomb 102, that of a little girl, are clearly worn on the prominent surfaces of the face. The features of one of the frontal female faces is nearly worn off, and three of the rams’ heads, as well as the pendant in the form of a dormant feline, show evidence of use wear. This is in contrast to the comparatively fresh surface of other ambers from the tomb, including the recumbent sphinx (which is also at least a generation older than the burial).

The woman’s Tomb 48 at Melfi-Pisciolo included at least five figured pendants, but only one female head in profile shows considerable surface wear. It contrasts with the male subject, a crisply detailed winged nude youth in a Phrygian hat with a shield at his side and sword in his hand.[172] A large pendant of Eos carrying off a youth, perhaps Kephalos, from a burial of circa 350 B.C. at Tricarico-Serra del Cedro, is an extreme example of face-rubbing: the youth’s face is nearly lost.[173] Female heads from a documented find at Valle Pega (Spina), and rams’ heads from excavated tombs at Bologna, show well the contrast between the better-preserved tops of heads and the more abraded faces.[174] A number of the Getty female and rams’ heads illustrate similar patterns of wear. Many other carved amber objects from burials throughout Italy (and Serbia) bear signs of wear: pulling troughs at the suspension hole, as in a head of a satyr from Palestrina (figure 36), handled or rubbed surfaces, and repairs, such as the drilling of replacement perforations or securing broken pieces in mounts.[175]

The sometimes disfiguring large drilled holes in the faces deserve special comment. Why and when were they bored? Raw amber pieces are sometimes found with large round holes in their center, the result of resin forming around a branch or twig (now disintegrated). If a piece of amber was purposely perforated before it was made into an object, the act might have occurred anywhere between the Baltic and Italy, and at any time, for it is likely that amber moved south in both worked and unworked form from earliest times. On a practical level, the holes may have been drilled into the amber to better protect it when it was suspended from a pin; or, once the piece was cored, it would have been suitable for wearing on a pin. The smoothed prominent surfaces of the Getty pendant Winged Female Head in Profile (figure 37), the multiple throughbores, the abrasion troughs in the suspension perforations at the top, and the central hole all indicate that this pendant must have been used over a period of time before it was finally interred in a grave.[176] How, and by whom, amber pendants were used during life is a subject for speculation. Pliny’s account is one useful source of information, and the few surviving Archaic and Classical illustrations of people (and divinities) wearing figured elements and amulets around their necks and limbs are valuable evidence for figured pendant usage outside of the grave context.

Paintings or sculptures of figures wearing a string with a single amulet or a group of them (as opposed to necklaces designed with repeating elements) are uncommon in Archaic and Classical art from Italy, but the depictions that do survive depict bullae-wearing men, women, and children, horses, and even ravens. Human figures of both sexes were them around the neck and on the upper arms. The single ornaments include gorgon masks and the heads of animals, such as fawns, lions, and rams. A number of terracottas of seated goddesses from Greek sanctuaries in Magna Graecia, for example, wear strings of figured elements, among them bulls’ heads.[177] On Greek vases, on Cypriot terracotta sculptures of temple boys, and on Laconian bronze images of partly clothed young women are seen cross-torso carriers bearing various kinds of amulets: crescents, boar tusks, circlets, and other shapes. Women wearing a single lotus-blossom pendant are represented in terracottas, bronzes, and plastic vases of the late sixth and fifth centuries. Pomegranates and simple flowers are also not unusual.

All amulet wearers depicted on Etruscan fourth-century mirrors are elite subjects, and most are identified as divinities and heroes. Two examples are important for amber pendants, especially because of the material’s association with Apollo/Aplu and Dionysos/Fufluns. On many Etruscan fourth-century mirrors, Aplu wears pendants around his neck or on his upper arm. On an Etruscan mid-fourth-century bronze mirror, the infant Dionysos/Fufluns is already adorned with a ribbon of amulets during his birth from Tinia’s thigh. Fufluns as a youth, now with a necklace of amulets but otherwise unadorned, is kissed by his mother, Semele, on another.[178]

Key illustrations of animal pendants in use are painted in the Tarquinian Tomb of Hunting and Fishing (circa 510 B.C.) (figure 38).[179] On the back wall of the main chamber, the male banqueter wears a necklace of three (possibly amber) rams’ heads almost identical to the Getty amber rams’ heads (figure 39). In the first room of the tomb, simple carriers with rams’- and lions’-head pendants, similar to those in the Getty, hang from branches (figures 40 and 41). This room of the tomb may depict the grove of Apollo or a Dionysian setting.

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  1. Pliny, Natural History 37.11. Negroni Catacchio 1989, p. 659, linking a modern custom with this report by Pliny, notes that in many regions of Italy in relatively recent times, it was popular to present amber necklaces to young women as their first precious object and as a portafortuna. Negroni Catacchio also cites the eloquent passage in Ovid’s retelling of the Phaethon story. See The Metamorphoses of Ovid, a verse translation by A. Mandelbaum (New York, San Diego, and London, 1993), p. 51, lines 365–66: “The stream’s clear waters bear that amber off, and it will then adorn young wives in Rome.” The gift of amber necklaces to immortal brides is also described in Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38.99, 40.400. In nineteenth-century Poland, following folk tradition, brides wore amber necklaces, usually of three strings, during their wedding, necklaces that may have been passed down from generation to generation. At least one of the beads would have had an inclusion, as I. Łapcik further notes in “The Gold of the Baltic Sea: Amber in Art and Culture,” in Languages and Cultures of the Baltic Region: Collection of Papers, International Conference of Young Scholars, vol. 2, eds. Y. Khramov and T. Khramova (Riga, 2007): (accessed November 24, 2009).

  2. Compare, for example, the Egyptian text: “The infant is protected by the gods, the child’s name, the milk he sucks, the clothes he wears, the age in which he lives, the amulets made for him and placed around his neck”: F. Lexa, La magie dans l’égypte antique, de l’Ancien Empire jusqu’à l’époque copte, vol. 2 (Paris, 1925), pp. 32–33.

  3. Caesarius, Sermons 13.5, 14.4. See also Dickie 2001, pp. 304–05. Dickie suggests that the amber amulet “may well have had writing on it, or a magical symbol.”

  4. For a selection, see Strong 1966, nos. 119–23 (including ring pendants). Crescent-shaped pendants have a long history in the Mediterranean. “A rare instance of amulet mentioned in ancient literary sources is the crescent moon, widely used throughout antiquity for its obvious associations with women’s fertility and so also with children”: Hughes-Brock 1993, p. 280, citing H. Wrede, “Lunulae in Halsschmuck,” in Wandlungen: Studien zur antiken und neuern Kunst Ernst Homann-Wedeking gewidmet (Munich, 1975), pp. 243–54. A lunula could be a single pendant on a carrier or one of many pendants in an ornament. The necklaces of the Archaic Sicilian terracotta Athana Linda type wear complex pectorals, and the lunulae can have either upturned or downturned ends: M. Albertocchi, “Athana Linda: Le statuette Siceliote con pettorali di età arcaica e classica,” Rivista di Archeologia, suppl. 28 (Rome, 2004).

  5. Strong 1966, p. 12.

  6. Kotansky 1991, p. 113: “The use of unengraved materials as amulets continues unabated into the Roman period side by side with talismans and phylacteries that carried texts.… Magical texts (often containing just symbols or very short spells) … often [are] inscribed on small, semiprecious stones that are then set into rings and necklaces or otherwise simply carried in an individual’s clothing.” Kotansky provides an excellent list of sources for gemstones and magic, but singles out Philipp 1986 ([n. 7], above).

  7. Bonner 1954, p. 151, in reference to A. Bertholet, “Die Macht der Schrift in Glauben und Aberglauben,” Abhandlungen der deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 1948, no. 1 (Berlin, 1949).

  8. Kotansky 1991, p. 107: “Simple uninscribed amulets are difficult, if not impossible, to identify; even when they carry some tell-tale symbol or design they remain silent about their specific purpose or the source of their efficacy. Those, however, that are inscribed with texts (no matter how brief) provide information about the ancient medical religious contexts of their use.”

    The tradition of tying on amulets and using knots in magic is attested in Egypt and the ancient Near East as early as the third millennium. A. Livingstone, “The Magic of Time,” in Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical and Interpretive Perspectives, eds. T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn (Groningen, 1999), pp. 131–37, calls for further ancient Near Eastern–area studies of “stones, their individual characters, and the tying on of amulets.” The action of tying was one part of the magic, the substance another, and the spell or charm said over the amulet still another. Thus, the magical rite included the actions that accompanied the words, while the objects or ingredients used in the rite were equally important; see Pinch 1994, p. 76. The stone’s role actively implemented the communication between suppliant and superior; see Winter 1999, p. 40. In a similar vein, Gordon 2002 ([n. 7], above), p. 83, confirms: “The spells in the magical papyri generally contain two elements, the preparation of materia magica and an accompanying incantation, whose function is either to activate the inherent properties of the material, or to invoke a named divinity and his or her metamorphs. Although the balance between these elements is variable, we may call this the tacit or implicit model of good practice, a model whose appropriateness was learned by practitioners in the course of their training.” J. Borghouts, Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts (Leiden, 1978), p. ix, emphasizes that “spells are the verbalized core matter of the rite.”

  9. Many objects excavated from Italian tombs (of as early as the eighth century) are generally considered amulets. These include flints, fossilized shark teeth, shells of various species, bears’ claws and teeth, boars’ tusks, faïence figures of Bes, and “Phoenician” glass masks. Many are commonly described as jewelry or by an equivalent word, but rarely as amulets.

  10. T. G. H. James, “Ancient Egyptian Seals,” in Collon 1997, p. 39; see also Ritner 1993; Andrews 1994, esp. pp. 100–06; and Wilkinson 1994, pp. 82–95.

  11. Pinch 1994, p. 105.

  12. The word sympathetic is used in the sense of “sympathetic magic.” As is written in one surviving Egyptian medical papyri, “still in some circumstances magic is needed to attract the sun’s influence”: J. F. Borghouts, “The Magical Text of Papyrus Leiden I 348, Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit Rijksmusuem van Oudheiden te Leiden 51 (1971): 165–67.

  13. Pinch 1994, p. 105.

  14. Golden tears of amber might have been thought to be everlasting tears of mourning. For the ancients familiar with the Phaethon or Meleager myths, the tears may have called up the weeping of the Heliades or the Meleagrides. Amber objects are found on the body, unassociated in the tomb, on top of cremated ashes, and, in rare cases, outside the container within the grave complex. H. Horsnaes, The Cultural Development in North-Western Lucania, c. 600–273 B.C. (Rome, 2002), p. 85, reminds us that “personal ‘gifts’ and ritual objects may have had plural functions (indeed one object would often belong to more than one of these categories): the practical function in the rituals taking place during the burial, the display of wealth/status for the community attending the burial, or the needs of the deceased in his/her afterlife.”

  15. Dickie 2001, passim.

  16. Kotansky 1991; Dickie 2001, p. 93, nn. 54–56.

  17. Dickie 2001, p. 93.

  18. See V. Dasen, ed., Naissance et petite enfance dans l’Antiquité: Actes du colloque de Fribourg, 28 novembre–1er décembre 2001. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 203 (Fribourg, 1994) provides a bibliography of the critical texts and secondary literature on amulets and spells of protection (against dangers of unspecified origin) for the pregnant woman, the fetus, parturition, and the newborn. See also V. Dasen, “Amulettes d’enfants dans le monde grec et romain,” Latomus 62 (2003): 275–89. Bonner 1950 was my introduction to the subject of amulets in connection with women, birth, and children, followed by A. A. Barb, “Diva Matrix,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 16 (1953): 193–238; and Pinch 1994. See also Johnston 1995 and J. J. Aubert, “Threatened Wombs: Aspects of Ancient Uterine Magic,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 30, no. 3 (1989): 421–49. Added to the ancient evidence, overviews such as J. Musacchio, The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy (New Haven, 1999), and systematic analyses such as G. Bellucci, Catalogue descriptif d’une collection d’amulettes italiennes, envoyée à l’Exposition universelle de Paris, 1889 (Perugia, 1889; repr., 1980); and G. Bellucci, Il feticismo primitivo in Italia, e le sue forme di adattamento, 2nd ed. (Perugia, 1919), show the long duration of charms and amulets in Italy. Many uterine amulets are for quieting the womb, while others are to still or retain a “wandering womb.”

  19. Magical stones, which protect pregnant women, are listed in most ancient lapidaries. See [n. 68], above.

  20. Juvenal (Satires 5.163–65) calls the bulla the Etruscum aurum, and some Roman writers (Pliny, Natural History 33.4; Festus, De Significatione Verborum 26.25; Plutarch, Vita Romulus 25) refer to the bulla as a specifically Etruscan ornament. The importance of the bulla for high-born Etruscan boys is evidenced by the third-century bronze statuettes “Putto Carrara” and “Putto Graziani” in the Museo Etrusco Gregoriano: Cagianelli and Sannibale 1999, pp. 110–34, nos. 2–3.

    P. G. Warden, “Bullae, Roman Custom, and Italic Tradition,” Opuscula Romana 14, no. 6 (1983): 69–75, outlines the amuletic custom of the bulla, drawing attention to one from Campovalano that contains three small stones and to elaborate figured bullae displaying, for example, apotropaic devices, Bes, or the gorgoneion. J. Sebesta, “The Costume of the Roman Woman,” in Sebesta and Bonfante 1994, p. 47, notes the apotropaic nature of both the bulla and the band of the toga praetexta. Macrobius (1.6.8–14), discussing a bulla worn by a triumphant general, says it enclosed curatives (remedia) that were believed to be strong against invidia. Invidia is one of the words used to describe the dangers amulets were intended to prevent or act against. See M. Dickie, “The Fathers of the Church and the Evil Eye,” in Byzantine Magic, ed. H. Maguire (Washington, DC, 1995), pp. 9–27 (with essential bibl.), where Dickie shows that the term evil eye as such was hardly used in classical antiquity and the Christian world:

    The terms most often used are, by Greek speakers [Gr. phthonos] and [Gr. baskania], and by speakers of Latin, invidia and fascinatio or fascinus. What men feared under these headings was not a single object with a secure and fixed identity but a complex of objects with shifting identities, and identities that coalesce.… The more or less constant factor in this constellation of fears was envy: men were afraid lest their good fortune would draw envy on their heads. The mighty fear it would come from their fellow men, demons, the gods, fortune, the fates, and a malign supernatural power they called simply [Gr. phthonos] or invidia. (p. 12)

    See also J. Russell, “The Archaeological Context of Magic in the Early Byzantine World,” in Maguire 1995 (see above), pp. 37–38. The same word (invidia) was used in nineteenth-century Italy for the same purposes, as revealed in Bellucci 1889 and Bellucci 1919 ([n. 150], above).

    Archaeological evidence for Roman domestic animals with bullae is to be found in the bronze bullae-ornamented horse tack buried at Populonia: Warden 1983 (above in this note), p. 70, with reference to A. Minto, Populonia (Florence, 1943), pp. 185–86, pl. 49.5. R. D. De Puma called my attention to the many bulla-wearing animals in Etruscan art, including the terracotta horses from the Temple of the Queen’s Altar, Tarquinia, and the ravens on Etruscan mirrors. Exempla of human bulla-wearers are on the stone sarcophagus from the Tomb of the Sarcophagi, Banditaccia Cemetery, Cerveteri (Museo Gregoriano Etrusco in the Vatican). Round bullae are worn by the deceased male on the lid and by a woman and both horses on the box front: B. Nogara, Guide du Musée de sculpture du Vatican I: Musée et Galeries Pontificaux (Vatican City, 1933), p. 412; and R. Herbig, Die jüngeretruskischen Steinssarkophage: Die antiken Sarkophagenreliefs (Berlin, 1952), p. 46, no. 83, pls. 1–2.

    A. Coen, “Bulle aurée dal Piceno nel Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche,” Prospettiva 89–90 (1998): 94, has best articulated the difference between the wearing of multiple bullae by various personages and the single bulla by boys. The bulla was offered up to the Lares at puberty on the day of Liberalia, thus connecting the boy to Liber and the sphere of Dionysian activity. Coen hypothesizes that the gold bulla buried with high-status individuals, women particularly, connote a particular status and were worn in view of the “religious salvation” and heroization of the subjects represented on the bulla. Coen notes that bullae are frequently found in graves with corona aureum, perhaps also Dionysian. Figured gold bullae (dating as early as the sixth century, but mainly of the fourth) usually are worn in multiples; they include obvious Dionysian subjects as well as other age-old aversion devices, the gorgoneion being a notable example. If the bulla-wearing Dionysos on the Praenestine “Cista Napoleon” is also Liber, the image may be a link to the tradition of boys dedicating their bullae to Liber at puberty. See [n. 156], below.

    A subject still deserving closer study is the relationship between the large figured amber pendants (found mainly along the Adriatic and in the Basilicata) and the pictorial gold bullae and pectorals of the fifth and fourth centuries (found mainly in Etruria, Latium, and Picenum). Both are made from materials with solar connotations and figured with apotropaic, heroic, and divine subjects, especially ones associated with rebirth and most particularly with Dionysos.

    In addition to the bibliography above, see Bonfante 2003, pp. 143–44, nn. 143–44; Dickie 2001; Haynes 2000, p. 282; Cagianelli and Sannibale 1999, pp. 117–18, 133; R. E. A. Palmer, “Locket Gold, Lizard Green,” in Etruscan Italy: Etruscan Influences on the Civilizations of Italy from Antiquity to the Modern Era, ed. J. F. Hall (Provo, UT, 1996), pp. 117–27; Waarsenburg 1995, p. 409, nn. 1050–52; S. Stone, “The Toga,” in Sebesta and Bonfante 1994, pp. 20, 41, n. 37; A. Stout, “Jewelry as a Symbol of Status,” in Sebesta and Bonfante 1994, pp. 76–77; H. R. Goette, “Die Bulla,” Bonner Jahrbücher 186 (1986): 133–64; F. Roncalli in Santuari d’Etruria, ed. G. Colonna (Milan, 1985), pp. 37–38; H. Gabelmann, “Römische Kinder in Toga Praetexta,” Jdi 100 (1985): 497–541; M. Torelli, La storia degli Etruschi (Rome and Bari, 1984), pp. 23–25; Cristofani and Martelli 1983, p. 11; and A. Andrén, “Oreficerie e plastica etrusche,” Opuscula Archaeologica 5 (1948): 94–99. The largest and most “canonically” apotropaic of all amber pendants may be that excavated from a woman’s tomb (Tomb 94) at Belmonte Piceno: Rocco 1999, p. 62, nn. 161, 343, 473, fig. 27; Negroni Catacchio 1989, pp. 679–80, pl. 9a; Marconi 1933, cols. 421–23, pls. 29.4–5; and I. Dall’Osso, Guida illustrata del Museo Nazionale di Ancona (Ancona, 1915), pp. 42, 65ff., fig. 127. The large, lens-shaped amber has a relief gorgoneion in its center and seven feline and human heads carved around its edge. The drilled holes on its periphery could have been used to attach additional small pendants.

    An Egyptian text describes how a solar amulet such as a bulla or an amber (or both) might work: “The hand and seal of the sun god are the mother’s protection. Each morning and evening, she recites the magic spells over an amulet that she hangs around her child’s neck. She prays to the rising sun. She implores him to take away the dead who would like to steal her child. She does not give her child to the thief from the kingdom of the dead”: Borghouts 1978 (see [n. 140], above).

  21. G. Bordenache Battaglia with A. Emiliozzi, Le ciste prenestine, I: Corpus, 1 (Rome, 1979), pp. 181–82, n. 59.

  22. Florence, Museo Archeologico Nazionale 4026. Could his bullae be of amber, considering the Argonauts’ destination of the northern lands, the ancient association between this voyage and amber, and amber’s safeguarding and buoyant properties?

  23. For examples of bulla-wearers (including demons) on Etruscan mirrors, see ES 2, pl. 166; ES 3, pl. 257; ES 4, p. 30, pl. 298; and ES 5, p. 60. See also LIMC 3 (1986), s.v. “Fufluns” (M. Cristofani), p. 532, n. 11; L. B. van der Meer, Interpretatio etrusca: Greek Myths on Etruscan Mirrors (Amsterdam, 1995), pp. 93–95, figs. 38, 42, 56, 60, 122, 125; LIMC 1 (1981), s.v. “Amatutunia” (G. Colonna), p. 586, n. 1; and LIMC 1 (1984), s.v. “Ares/Laran” (E. Simon), p. 502, n. 19. Two other named bulla-shaped pendant wearers include Peleus (armband) and Calaina (holding a circlet), who are depicted on Metropolitan Museum of Art 09.221.16, Rogers Fund, 1909: G. Bonfante, “Note on the Margin of a Recent Book: Calaina,” Etruscan Studies 6 (1999): 8–9; and CSE 3, no. 14.

  24. The extraordinary series of fourth-century terracotta votive figures from Lavinio are richly ornamented with figural bullae of various forms: Enea del Lazio: Archeologia e mito, exh. cat. (Rome, 1981). An extraordinary sarcophagus-lid figure with similar bullae was found at Cerveteri (circa 400–350): Cristofani and Martelli 1983, pl. VIII.

  25. The jewelry represented on the New York mirror ([n. 155], above) is compared by R. Nicholls to that on a mirror with Amphiaraos in the Fitzwilliam Museum: CSE Great Britain, no. 2.8. R. Nicholls also discusses the significance of the armlet in Etruscan art.

  26. Bulla-shaped amber pendants (the commonest form of pendant) are documented in the seventh-century Foundation Deposit at Ephesus and in women’s graves in Etruria and southern Italy from the eighth century onward. Unfortunately, many of the known amber bulla-shaped pendants are without secure provenance. The largest amber bulla known to me comes from the Belmonte Piceno Tomb 94, a grave typed as female by I. Dall’Osso (cited by Rocco 1999, p. 107, n. 473). It was found in a woman’s tomb with iron armor and arms, parts of a cart, bronze torques, bracelets, fibulae of various kinds (including ones with amber segments and one with bronze bullae pendants), and other amber objects. Rocco 1999, p. 86, no. 143, discusses an ivory cylinder from the same tomb.

  27. See [n. 75], above.

  28. Amber might have been especially effective in magically attracting the sun, due to its inherent magnetic property and because of amber’s “sympathetic” brilliance and color: like would attract like. The verb “to fix” in reference to amulets is borrowed from the Hermetic writings in reference to talismans. See D. Pingree, “Some of the Sources of the Ghāyat al-hakīm,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 43 (1980): 1–15. quoted by E. Reiner, “Magic Figurines, Amulets, and Talismans,” in Monsters and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: Papers Presented in Honor of Edith Porada, eds. A. Farkas et al. (Mainz, 1987), p. 27.

  29. Pingree 1980 ([n. 160], above), p. 3. Plantzos 1999, p. 110, notes that “the ability of a lens—hyalos—to attract the rays of the sun (Aristophanes Clouds 760–75)” was common knowledge.

  30. Kotansky 1991, p. 108, with reference to P. W. Schienerl, “Der Ursprung und die Entwicklung von Amulett behältnissen in der antiken Welt,” Antike Welt 15 (1984): 45–54, esp. 50–54.

  31. Plato, Republic 426b1–2.

  32. Amulets of clay, stone, ivory, and bone and other materials are among the earliest surviving sculpted objects from Italy. The early Neolithic and Chalcolithic clay heads and figurines from cultic caves include nude and partially dressed figures and heads with necks, but no isolated faces. See K. Holmes and R. Whitehouse, “Anthropomorphic Figurines and the Construction of Gender in Neolithic and Copper Age Italy,” in Gender and Italian Archaeology, ed. R. Whitehouse (London, 1998), pp. 95–126.

  33. Melfi, Museo Archeologico Nazionale del Melfese “Massimo Pallottino” 118680 and 118681 (the female heads) and 118678–79 (the satyr heads) from Tomb 48, Ripacandida: Bottini 1987, pp. 9–12, figs. 13–15, pl. III.

  34. Bottini 1993, p. 65; and Bottini 1987, p. 10, n. 39.

  35. See [n. 152], above, for the Etruscan mirror with Calaina (Galene) in New York. A “so-called string of beads or ‘chaplet’ is carried as an attribute by a goddess who appears on the palace sculpture of King Assurnasirpal II of Assyria, and on Neo-Assyrian seals, the goddess carrying the chaplet is sometimes Ishtar (Inana)”: Black and Green 1992, pp. 51–52. For the Sumerian material, see, for example, the beads and amulet group from the tomb of Queen Puabi, discussed by H. Pittman in Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, exh. cat., eds. R. L. Zettler and L. Horne (Philadelphia, 1998), pp. 95–96, no. 33 (with critical comparanda).

  36. See [n. 150], above.

  37. Goff 1963 ([n. 7], above), pp. 162–211.

  38. For a recent discussion of crepundia and Roman amber, see M. Lista, “L’ambra dei Romani in Plinio: dal moralismo alla devotio,” in Ambre 2007, pp. 254–59. Waarsenburg 1995, pp. 458–59, n. 1299 (with bibl.), notes that “although by Imperial times, crepundia had become restricted to protective charms for children, Apuleius (Apologia 56.3) confirms that they had a religious significance (sacrorum crepundia).” See also V. Dasen, “Protéger l’enfant: Amulettes et crepundia,” in Maternité et petite enfance dans l’Antiquité romaine, exh. cat., eds. D. Gourevitch, A. Moirin, and N. Rouquet (Bourges, 2003), pp. 149–51.

  39. Potenza, Museo Nazionale Archeologico 96684 (satyr) and 96685 (Herakles, identified in all publications as “maenad”), from Tomb 106, Braida di Vaglio: Magie d’ambra 2005, ill. p. 117; Bottini and Setari 2003, p. 66, nos. 310 (Herakles) and 311 (satyr), fig. 37. S. J. Schwarz confirmed my identification of the head as a Cypriot-type Herakles (pers. comm., September 22, 2006); see LIMC suppl. 2009, vol. 1, add. 2, s.v. “Hercle” (S. J. Schwarz), pp. 247–48.

  40. Melfi, Museo Archeologico Nazionale del Melfese “Massimo Pallottino” 51436–40, from Tomb 48, Melfi-Pisciolo. The frontal female heads, inv. 51436 and 51437, are each drilled with numerous stopped bores. Inv. 51436 even has bores in the cheek and chin. For the female heads from this tomb, see Bottini 1993, Bottini 1987, and Popoli anellenici 1971, p. 125, pl. LIII. The two other pendants, female heads, inv. 51439–40, are in poor condition.

  41. Eos and Kephalos (identified by A. Bottini), Matera, Museo Nazionale “Domenico Ridola” 169680, from Tricarico–Serra del Cedro, Tomb 60, middle of the fourth century: Magie d’ambra 2005, ill. p. 128; Bottini and Setari 1998, p. 630. This pendant is likely older than the burial. The intact woman’s Tomb 952 from Lavello-Casino, dating to the middle of the fifth century (Melfi, Museo Archeologico Nazionale del Melfese “Massimo Pallottino”), included three large amber pendants suspended in the groin area and several necklaces composed of glass-paste eye beads, bone pendants, and amber beads and pendants. Although the necklace ambers are in poor condition, two hitherto unidentified pendants (a ram’s head and a siren; no known inv. nos.) show evidence of pulling wear at the suspension holes: Ornamenti e lusso 2000, p. 57; Treasures 1998; and “La tomba 952 di Forentum” (undated pamphlet, Melfi museum).

  42. For the amber ram’s head from Adria, see Due Donne 1993. For the Bolognese (Certosa) material, see A. Zannoni, Gli scavi della Certosa di Bologna (Bologna, 1876); and G. Muffatti, “Paste vitree, alabastri, oggetti in osso, avorio e ambra,” StEtr 35 (1967): pl. 77a. For other ambers from the area, including recent and previously unpublished older finds, see L. Malnati, “L’ambra in Emilia Romagna durante l’età del Ferro: I luoghi della redistribuzione e della produzione,” in Ambre 2007, esp. pp. 122–29 and 152–59.

  43. The female head from Tomb 90 at Latronico-Colle dei Greci is Policoro, Museo Nazionale 216349: Ambre 2007, p. 239. E. Brizio, “Verucchio, Scoperta di sepolchri tipo Villanova,” NSc 10 (1898): 373, reported that an amber ring from Tomb 11 at Verucchio was repaired in antiquity with “sewing stitches.”

  44. Amber pendants are not alone in showing signs of use wear—from touching, rubbing, kissing, or other kinds of abrasion as the objects came into contact with the body or clothing. See Ritner 1993 on kissing, spitting, and other acts in Egyptian ritual magic. Ritual washing may also have been a cause of the uneven wear. Africanist Zoë Strother (pers. comm., August 2005) recounts her interview with a Central Pende man who described that he washed his ivory pendant in river sand to keep it white. Compare the ivory mask in the Tervuren Collection (7676): Masterpieces from Central Africa: Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, exh. cat., eds. G. Verswijver et al. (New York, 1996). For more examples of beads and pendants in amber and other materials that show evidence of use, see R. K. Liu, Collectible Beads (Vista, CA, 1995), pp. 35–37 and passim.

  45. Some classes of amulet wearers deserving closer study include the Laconian acrobats and dancers; babies and toddlers; Cypriot temple boys; and certain female divinities. Among the latter are seated divinities from Sicily (Gela, the extraurban sanctuary of Predio Sola; Selinus, the Malophoros Sanctuary) and southern Italy (Metaponto, San Biagio.) The amulets worn by youngsters and athletic young women (on mirror supports) include many time-honored fertility subjects: the crescent moon, lotus blossoms, lotus flowers, and the sun.

  46. For examples of these two gods adorned with pendants, see L. Bonfante, “Fufluns Pacha: The Etruscan Dionysus,” in Masks of Dionysus, eds. T. H. Carpenter and C. Faraone (Ithaca, NY, 1993), pp. 224–31, figs. 21, 24. The Naples mirror is Museo Archeologico Nazionale ES; the Berlin mirror is Antikenmuseum Fr. 36, ES.

  47. For the Tarquinian Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, see, most recently, Steingräber 2006. On p. 95, he notes the importance of Dionysian elements in the tomb. Haynes 2000, p. 229, interprets the tomb as Dionysian; compare Simon 1998, who reiterates her belief that its plants are laurel and signify it as the grove of Apollo. Brown 1960, p. 106, was the first to make the connection between the painted images and excavated gold animal-head pendants.

Amber Medicine, Amber Amulets

Related Objects
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. Ancient Carved Ambers in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles: Getty P, 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2020.


. In Ancient Carved Ambers in the J. Paul Getty Museum, last modified August 1, 2012, accessed 24 Jan. 2020. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2012.

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