Article Title

Ancient Egyptian Sulfur Beads




The Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection at Tokai University (AENET), Japan, contains two unique necklaces made of an opaque yellow substance identified as sulfur through XRF and XRD analysis. Sulfur beads are rare and have not been adequately studied. We therefore undertook a study of the AENET beads and estimate that they date to the Ptolemaic and early Roman periods in Egypt. A digital-image comparison between the AENET beads and similar beads in another museum collection shows a strong correlation, suggesting that they share a single mold. An isotopic analysis also provides a specific fingerprint of the sulfur. Experiments to replicate the beads indicated that they were made by pouring molten sulfur into a greased mold. The process is simple, revealing that a small-scale cottage industry was sufficient to make them. The beads were used for funerary purposes (likely incorporated into broad collars) rather than in daily life because oxidized sulfur emits an unpleasant odor, discouraging people from wearing them every day.

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