Ancient jewelry and the Field Museum: surprisingly modern

11 Oct

Over the weekend, I had a fabulous friend-date/date-date at the Field Museum in Chicago. I got to meet up with one of my besties and her fiance, a friend I haven’t seen in — holy cow — five years, and the beau who came home to my parents’ with me for my cousin’s wedding.

We saw Sue, the most complete tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton — 90 percent of the bones are there, and the rest are casts — and walked through a timeline of the Earth’s history, dating back to 1.5 billion years ago. We spent entirely too much time in the most beautiful gift store I’ve ever seen — I walked out with two geode slices I’m going to turn into some gorgeous pendants — and said we had to come back as we walked out the doors a few minutes past the 5 p.m. closing time.

Despite all we saw — and all we missed — the artifacts that drew me were the same things that draw me no matter where I go: the jewelry. It’s amazing to see the intricate beading techniques women created thousands of years ago, and it’s even more amazing to notice that so much of the techniques haven’t changed.


This amulet strand is from Egypt circa 1650 to 1295 B.C. It's made of ducks and would have been strung on a young woman's hips to promote fertility. (Photos from


The bright, bold, gaudy stuff found in the ancient Americas wing? The ancient Egypt wing where the necklaces are guilded collars with inset stones? They all looked surprisingly modern, especially a single strand of pearls set behind glass and pinned to the display.


These earrings come from the 1800s in China.


I scoured the Field Museum site to find some images of the pearl necklaces that so struck me as so modern despite their age, but I couldn’t find it. I wish I could say I had been smart enough to take some of my own. I was not. Most of the photos of displays I have from the trip look like this:

The beau’s an artist and is fascinated with Neanderthals and pre-modern human history. Which leave me with a memory card full of monkey people.

We wrapped up the trip with some true Chicago-style hot dogs, fresh from a hot dog cart and ordered with everything: You do NOT pick and choose the condiments on a Chicago dog. Even when there’s — yech — mustard on it. Because some how, it all turns out perfect.

We marched our hot dogs a few feet down the grassy hill and watched some lovely dancers being photographed right in front of Lake Michigan, full of sail boats enjoying the Indian summer.

It was a good trip.

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