Silver in ancient Egypt.

Silver in ancient Egypt.

Silver in ancient Egypt was a rare and scarce material. Jewelry made of silver was almost always thinner than gold pieces, as indicated by the bracelets of the 4th Dynasty queen Hetephere I as compared to her other opulent gold jewelry.

However during the 12th Dynasty, silver had acquired a value approximately half that of gold. It could be due to the opening of the trade route from western Asia and the Mediterranean. This brought in an abundance of silver.

By the 18th dynasty, silver had been established as a means of exchange. It was made into a flat disk very similar to our coinage currency exchange system and acted as a valuation for exchange for commodities like bread, clothing and food.

The shat (seniu, Sna or shena) as it was known denote about 7.5 or 7.6g of silver. A deben, or kit, was a weight of 90 to 91g.

To give you an idea of ancient Egypt's economy at the end of the 18th dynasty:

- a goat cost one half of a shat of silver
- a cow was eight shat
- a typical house cost ten shat of silver
- a male slave could bring seven deben of silver
- a female slave might bring four deben

A piece of silver coin was found in King Tutankhumun's tomb.

Due to its pale color, the ancient Egyptians associated silver with the moon, purity and the bones of the gods (gold was seen as the skin of the gods).

Artisans beat silver into sheets to adorn precious objects. Due to its susceptibility to corrosive salts in burial grounds, it degrades much faster than gold. Consequently, most surviving examples of silver tend to be in worse condition than gold objects.

Here we show three surviving examples of silver artifacts from ancient Egypt:

Silver Coffin of King Psusennes the First, of the 21st Dynasty.

Silver coffin of Shoshenq II of the 22nd dynasty. Found at Tanis in 1939 in the royal necropolis.

Necklace of Wah, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, ca. 1981–1975 B.C., From the Tomb of Wah, a minor Egyptian official.