Friday, December 6, 2013

Archaic Jewellery in Portugal

The large number of pieces of proto-historic jewellery from Portuguese territory,
which is mostly exposed in the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Museum
of Archaeology) but with significant representation in other museums in the
country, is one of the most precious manifestations of our past.

The objects of ancient gold smithery allow the archaeological investigation to use
the products of the goldsmiths as an indicator of the status of the owners of these
jewels. Among other factors, this social differentiation occurs due to the display of
goods and materials of critical access, particularly hard to obtain.
The gold artefacts were, since the 3rd millennium b.C., part of a set of goods that
reach the nature of insignia and power, which give shine to the social status.
Found in the overwhelming majority in undetermined circumstances, the pieces of
jewellery from the 2nd millennium b.C. gradually gained greater size and weight. Their
decoration demonstrates the increasing technical skills of goldsmiths, as seen in the
exceptional bracelet of Cantonha.

In all societies of European Pre- and Proto-history, the exchange of prestige goods
was important, and jewels were especially so: the Homeric poems tell us of trade, the
imposition of tributes to that trade in strategic points of passage (as does the fortune
of Priam of Troy), of war, plunder, and confiscation (which dictated its destruction)
and of the gift, the generous offer to someone deemed worthy (such as the presents
from the king of the Phaeacians to Ulysses, which determined his final fortune).
We do not know the extent and quality or the process by which the peninsular
goldsmiths knew, understood and imitated the pieces of oriental jewellery (or
Orientalizing, in the sense that they were produced in the West by workshops directly
set up in the Middle East or with oriental craftsmen, such as the Odemira earrings),
but all the evidence shows that these peninsular craftsmen, heirs of the old masters
of the Late Bronze Age, learned early how to use metal in new ways.

We must not forget the phenomenon of accession to the novelty, now known as
“fashion”. It is this phenomenon, added to the mastery of a timeless activity of
familial transmission, traditionally very closed, which explains the appearance of
always different classes of objects and truly unique objects, such as the masterpiece
that is the torque of Vilas Boas.

Later, the conquests of Alexander brought massive looting of precious metals to
the realm of the Mediterranean, which changed the nature of the relationship that
societies established with wealth and, of course, also changed the relative value of
the precious metals.

In their wake, the Romans reserved mainly the expression of their wealth for the
home environment and for the conviviality that takes place in it: the banquet. This is
visible in the home architecture, in the predominant role given to the rooms where
the great meals were held in aristocratic homes and, in some very interesting sets
known throughout the empire, the tableware, namely silver, which served these
banquets, as would have been the case of the phiale of Lameira Larga.

With the end of the Empire, we enter a time of really scarce jewellery findings, which
nevertheless continued to produce quality works, such as the fibula of the type
Visigoth of Beja. But “the glitter of power” begins to manifest itself in other ways: the
Church starts concentrating its assets in the most precious metal available and using
it on objects of liturgical use.

Technical Details
Date of Issue: 21 June 2013
Values: stamps of 0,36€, 0,70€, 0,80€ and 1,70€.
Souvenir sheet with stamp of 3,00€.
Acknowledgments: Direcção Geral do Património Cultural / ADF Luis Raposo
Printer: Cartor
Process: Offset
Size: stamps: 40,0 x 30,6 mm
Souvenir sheet: 125 x 95 mm
Perforation: Cross of Christ 13 x 13
Paper: FSC 110 g./m2
Sheet: with 50 stamps

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