Israel, 1000-586 B.C.E.
- Bronze: cast and hammered
- Diameter: 3 1/8 in. (8 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Gift of the Betty and Max Ratner Collection, 1981-111
- Digital image © 2006 The Jewish Museum, New York Photo by Ardon Bar Hama
In ancient times, both men and women wore jewelry and were sometimes buried with such cherished possessions. The smaller bangle shown here might have been worn as a bracelet; the thicker one was probably an anklet. Both are made from bronze, an alloy of copper and tin.
In Israel, metal jewelry, including bracelets, anklets, and earrings, may also have been used as currency before the introduction of coinage. If an individual wanted to make a purchase, he or she would have weighed the bangles at the time of sale in order to determine their value. The standard unit of weight was the shekel—equal to about 11.4 grams (0.4 ounces). Other weights included the beqa (half a shekel), the pim (two-thirds of a shekel), and the netzef (five-sixths of a shekel). Stone weights marked with these different denominations have been found in excavations throughout Israel.
- These bronze objects were probably worn as bracelets or anklets. How are they similar to jewelry people wear today? Why do you think people wore jewelry in ancient times?
- Bangles are frequently found in ancient graves. Why do you think people would want to be buried with their jewelry?
- Bronze bangles were used as currency, as well as jewelry, because the material was considered very valuable. What makes something valuable in a society? Who or what determines its value?
- What kinds of objects are considered valuable today? What do we do with valuable objects? What objects are most valuable to you? Why?
- What do you think would be the disadvantages of using jewelry, rather than coins, as currency?