Thursday, July 17, 2014

Silver in ancient Egypt

Gold was considered to be the skin of the ancient Egyptian gods and their bones were thought to be made of silver.

At beginning of recorded history, silver may have been unknown to the ancient Egyptians. They could obtain gold and electrum, which was a natural alloy of silver and gold, from the mountains of the Eastern Desert and Nubia. Early Egyptian language lacks a word for silver. They described it only as the "white metal", and when they did run across it, they seem to have regarded it as a variety of gold.

When silver was introduced into Egypt, it probably was more valuable than gold. It was rare, and on lists of valuables, items of silver were listed above those of gold during the Old Kingdom.

Jewelry made of silver was almost always thinner than gold pieces, as indicated by the bracelets of the 4th Dynasty queen Hetephere I, in marked contrast to the extravagance of her gold jewelry.
A silver treasure found at the site of Tod comprised vessels probably made in Crete. The hoard dates to the reign of Amenemhat II who ruled during the 12th Dynasty. (1962 BC)
By the Middle Kingdom, silver was less valuable than gold. By this time a much better supply of the metal had developed. During the 12th Dynasty, silver had acquired a value approximately half that of gold. By the 18th dynasty silver and copper had been established as a means of exchange.

Copper was valued at about one-hundredth the value of silver.
The rulers of the 21st and 22nd Dynasty, who were buried at Tanis used silver in their burials. Sheshonq II had a solid silver coffin with gilded details in the form of the hawk-god, Sokar.