>Ancient Beadwork


Building the New Museum of Fine Arts MFA beadwork beadnet dress egyptian ancient beads
Since yesterday was a holiday, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts for their Open House! Most every Monday holiday means free admission at the MFA, and I try to take advantage of it when I can. I actually went to see the Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice exhibition since I’m planning a trip to Venice, but I also found myself in the ‘new’ Old Kingdom Egyptian rooms. There, I found the most beautiful bead-netted dress which dated from 2500 B.C.!

Building the New Museum of Fine Arts MFA beadwork beadnet dress egyptian Giza ancient beads
Believe it or not, I was actually contacted by someone from the UK about this dress several months ago. I was asked if I knew how to recreate a likeness of the dress, and if I thought I could, it would be worn in a movie production/documentary film. The person who emailed me had a deadline, knew very little about beading, and had no idea how long such a task would take. Of course, if it were bead embroidery, I could do it, but at the time, I had not even seen the dress in person- only a photo. And, now that I have seen it, I think I could possibly do it, but there would have to be no immediate deadline, because it doesn’t look very simple! You can learn a little more about this dress by clicking the photo below, then click All Sizes on my Flickr page:

Building the New Museum of Fine Arts MFA beadwork beadnet dress egyptian Giza ancient beads

After reading this information, I wondered what kind of thread the Egyptians used to string beads in 2500 B.C… How many years did it take for the threads to disintegrate? Also, how many years would it take for modern Nymo (nylon) thread to disintegrate in a similar circumstance? And, how will my beadwork hold up over the next 2500 years or so – that is, if the human race still exists on this planet… if the planet exists at all… Just a few beads for thought! 😮

P.S. If you would like to see more beadwork & jewelry found at the MFA, please check my Flickr! Enjoy!

14 thoughts on “>Ancient Beadwork

  1. >The original thread would probably have been a natural fibre, maybe flax or linen, perhaps.If this were being made for filming, I would probably use something like fireline, or a strong nylon thread like silkon, while not original to the style, they will probably hold up to the rigours of filming, especially if you are not there to repair it.It is netting, so the work would probably come together fairly quickly once the bodice is done.

  2. >Oh cool! Ancient bead work is sooo fascinating! How long was the deadline? “In the year 2525, if man is still alive” … 🙂 I was just reminded of that song, I have an odd electro version of it on CD. Ha, ha. Who knows? No matter what happens, the sun will swallow our earth in some 5 billion years anyway … 😉 You should sent some pieces of your beadwork out into the universe!

  3. >Wow that was beautiful. I bet the museum was exhilirating! BTW I gave you the Lovely Blog Award. Pick it up on my blog!

  4. >Thanks everyone for the comments! I am sure Nymo would last a little longer, but I wonder how long… Lisa, I was wondering what needles they used, too! I can’t even find a needle that works for tiny beads now! LOL. And, I have seen the latest DVD from the ‘World on a String’ series. I LOVED it. I want to order the whole set!Jams, way cool that you got the not-wife some ancient beads! I would have to keep the guy who gave something like that to me! ;)And, Geometric, the sing said that this dress comprised of over 7000 beads! I’m sure the dress wouldn’t take too long after you got the top half finished! :0

  5. >Hi, since I’m so deeply into Diamond Weave, obviously this dress is hugely interesting to me. I wonder whether the reconstruction is wrong in 2 points: the lower horizontal line will impede walking, and it will ruin the figure-hugging effect of the net, which after all is heavy and additionally weightet at the lower rim. Netting is great to decorate Christmas baubles – that’s how figure-hugging it is!Given the right material and tools, it probably would take only a few weeks to do. My new bracelet used nearly 2000 beads and took less than a week to make.

  6. >Amazing and so beautiful! If they would allow you the time, I know you could replicate that dress. I find history and old pieces so fascinating!Me too…I wonder what they used. I tried to google the history of thread. The only thing I got that was close is…Egyptians were skilled at making thread from plant fibers and in using the wool and hair from domestic animals in spinning. Then I wonder what they used for needles that long ago. What needles did they use for size 24/0 seed beads years ago?! So interesting! I hope Nymo holds up for years and years…hopefully being nylon it will…so those that are lucky enough to own our beadwork by then can still enjoy it…if the human race and planet still exist! ;-)Great post and beads for thought! I have two old Native American beaded pieces (that were from my Nana’s family) that I’ve never shown or shared before. You make me think that maybe I should.Have you seen the new DVD…World on a String? I REALLY want to see it and haven’t yet. Bet you would enjoy it too! ~Lisa 😉

  7. >Funny you should be asking such questions. I am watching a program on the History channel. It is about what happens to the earth After Man is gone. Pretty amazing.

  8. >I think nylon holds up like plastic as it is sort of a plastic. That means it would be very slow to disintegrate, but even so, it would be a lot of work and not done over night or in a couple of weeks! Wow! Interesting.

  9. >I’ve seen similar pieces of beadwork in the Carnegie Museum and have had the same thoughts. I’m always hopeful that some of my pieces will be passed down through a family (or at least my family) for generations.

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