‘Jewelry is important, even in the afterlife?’ I bet you wonder what a funny (to say the least) statement is? Is it an important statement? A statement to write a blog post about? Yes, it is!
Some assumptions. Some truths.
Jewelry is a part of your emotions. It is a way of life. Do you wear jewelry or not? Maybe you want to dress up? Do you use jewelry to look more beautiful? Or show your status? Are you married and wear a wedding ring. Or are you rich and wear a lot of gold and diamonds? Whatever reason to wear what type of jewelry, but jewelry is important.
Look at your jewelry and we know who you are. Whether you are rich or poor (look at the used material). Modern or more traditional? Whether you love minimalistic or statement jewelry. Maybe you wear personalized jewelry. In that case, we know how many children you have. Or their names, or the name of your husband. In every case, jewelry is important!
You can ‘read’ a woman by looking at her jewelry. And when you want to stay known after your death, make sure that there is jewelry in your grave. An archeologist can determine what kind of person you were. Also for him, your jewelry is important, certainly in the afterlife.
By now, I might have lost you. Let me explain!
Jewelry is important for The Lady of Simpelveld
Last week I visit a world-famous museum in Leiden/The Netherlands, called the Oudheidkundig Museum. You find there all kinds of archeological artifacts from all times.
One of the artifacts that impressed me most is the ‘ash grave’ of the Lady of Simpelveld. And the jewelry that archeologists find in that grave. I realize that her jewelry tells the world so much about her, even after so many years.
The history of the ashgrave
When the Romans conquered the Netherlands a completely new way of burial emerged. The urban elite got buried in or rather under large stone monuments, decorated with sculptures and Latin inscriptions. Those inscriptions tell about the virtues and career of the deceased. Such monuments are mostly found around the roads to and from the cities.
The ashes of the deceased person were put in a glass urn, sometimes with a lead capsule around it. According to her or his status in life with the urn, a lot of rich gifts were buried too, like jewelry, amber statues, creme bottles, wine glasses, or glass plates. On the basis of these gifts, you already can see that jewelry is important, also in the Roman Times.
In the countryside, the wealthy owners of large farmhouses (we call them villae) are buried near their home, in large stone coffins, painted or sculpted on the inside. The inside of such a coffin looked like the home where the deceased lived. And if a soldier was buried, his coffin looked like a Roman house and the soldier was sculptured while lying next to a meal and some alcoholic drink.
The tombs or monuments with the inside of their home and all the gifts alongside, tells us a lot about how they lived, and what they liked or loved. But certainly, you can see that also in those days jewelry is important, not only because of the memory of that jewelry but also as a status symbol.
The grave of the Lady of Simpelveld
In December 1930 a man from Simpelveld (a village in the South of the Netherlands) works in his field. During the digging he finds a large solid stone, that looks like a big box or coffin. The outside is plain and rather ugly.
He asks a professional to look at his find. And he discovers that this is an ash grave and there is jewelry in it. The biggest surprise comes when they open this grave. The inside is decorated with reliefs, that represent a complete interior of a house. With chairs, cabinets, a birth stool, bottles, and much more.
On the floor are ashes from the lady, a mirror, and jewelry, like an earring, a beaded necklace, and some rings. This lady definitely shows us that she thinks jewelry is important. And the biggest surprise is that on one of the sides of the grave the ‘lady of the house’ is sculptured. She lays on a ‘dinner bed’. By now the archeologists determine that she is a Roman or Gallo-Roman lady.
We don’t know her name, but she died aged 35-50 years around 170 AC. From DNA research we know that she lived a good life and never had to work hard.
Her jewelry is important and speaks for her.
She is or rather was a rich lady. Who else can afford a grave like this? Besides that, this is the only grave (until now) found with relief inside the coffin.
The grave contains a golden necklace, a golden earring, three golden rings (two rings with gemstones and one with an inscription). There is a beaded necklace, a silver mirror, scissors, writing material, and 2 bottles of glass and china.
We know by researching the artifacts that not only she is a rich lady. But she has great taste because the jewelry is exquisite. Made of high-quality material (gold and gemstones) and great workmanship.
And when you realize that there are holes in the ash grove. So there was more jewelry in this coffin. Then you are as impressed as I am about this find. And can you imagine that even in those days, just like now, jewelry means emotion, more than enough to take your jewelry box into your grave? Now and then… jewelry is important!
Her coffin leads the way.
Her ash grave is not the first grave that the worker finds in his field. There are 2 more, but they are empty. The archeologists assume that her house is not far away from where she is buried.
Seven years later they find the remnants of a large Roman villa a few hundred meters from the coffin. One of the many that are found in the surrounds of Simpelveld, where the Romans lived a long time ago.
And due to the reliefs in the coffin of the Lady of Simpelveld, we know what the furniture of such a villa looks like. They are made of wood and wood does not last such a long time. So her coffin does not only tells something about her. But also about her house, her style of living, and her status.
Restoration of the grave of Simpelveld
In 2021 the Museum voor Oudheidkunde in Leiden/The Netherlands started the restoration of this grave of Simpelveld. That is a rather tricky operation since the coffin can fall apart. Luckily until now, it did not happen.
The restoration people found a remarkable object in the coffin: a Dutch ‘dubbeltje’ of 1971. A dubbeltje is a Dutch coin, from before the Euro Era, and had a value of 10 cents. It is considered (yes, call me chauvinistic) the most beautiful coin in the world. I owe ven a bracelet, made of dubbeltjes.
It is sure that the Lady of Simpelveld did not owe this type of coin, so there is no other explanation than that a restorator of the grave in earlier times, left it there as a souvenir for the next restorators?
There is more ‘heavenly’ jewelry to be found
The jewelry found in this grave of the Lady of Simpelveld is just one example. We have found jewelry in graves of kings and queens, like in the grave of Tutankhamon. Or in graves of less important people in those days. But all the finds show us the importance of jewelry to show your status, your wealth. And for us in our time we learn a bit more about their living conditions, their taste, the techniques they knew to make beautiful things.
And we know by studying the grave finds about the society and history of that time. Sometimes we discover that the grave jewelry, like in the Phoenician graves is the predecessor of our own jewelry, of our own techniques in making jewelry. Jewelry is important to understand the old world better.
Wearing jewelry is not only the emotion and memories of the person who gave us the jewelry. In this sense jewelry is important. But we also want to look astonishing with it. Do you know what jewelry looks best on you? Do you know what jewelry accentuates your best features and maybe camouflages your minor ones?
FlorenceJewelshop published a brand new PDF with all the answers to the questions above, and much more. It is free of charge. Just let me know where I can send it to.
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