Silver bracelets

Analysis of the silver bracelets belonging to the Fourth Dynasty queen Hetepheres I has revealed the origins of the silver ore used in Egypt, and the extent of Egypt’s trading networks. A team led by researchers from Macquarie University in Australia used a series of techniques including X-ray fluorescence and isotope ratio analysis to reveal the chemical composition of the bracelets, which were found to contain silver with minor traces of copper, gold, and lead. The lead isotope ratios are similar to those in silver mined in the Cyclades islands in the Aegean, which suggests that silver was imported into Egypt from here, possibly via the port of Byblos on the Lebanese coast. This is the earliest attestation of trading links between Egypt and Greece. The team were also able to reveal the techniques used to create the bracelets by imaging a cross-section of a fragment, which showed the metal was cold-hammered, but also repeatedly heated and cooled (annealed) to make it more workable.

Hetepheres I’s silver bracelets, inlaid. Image: Mohammedani Ibrahim
With turquoise, lapis lazuli, and carnelian.
Text: Sarah Griffiths / Image: Mohammedani Ibrahim; both © May 2023 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston