Opening of the exhibition Amber in Ancient Cultures. Artwork from the Hermitage Collection in Kaliningrad
14 September 2010 the exhibition entitled Amber in Ancient Cultures. Artwork from the Hermitage Collection was opened at the Kaliningrad Regional Amber Museum.
According to one of the leading amber researchers Carl Beck, in Europe there are over fifty kinds of fossilized resins that are called amber. Its most famous kind, Baltic, has been one of the most widespread in Eurasia. Due to the nature amber is not only beautiful but also mysteriously shining and amazingly appealing. It was for this reason that amber inspired legends and myths. Once there were two suns in the sky. One was very heavy and the sky couldnít hold it anymore. The sun fell down and shattered into pieces against sea rocks and since then the sea has been bringing its pieces onto the shore. Such is the origin of amber according to an old Baltic legend.
The Greek mythological tradition associated amber with hardened tear drops of Klumenh and heliades, a wife and daughters of Helios, the god of the Sun, who shed their tears over the son and brother Faeton, grew into the earth and turned into poplars from which branches tears dropped that would harden due to the solar heat and turn into amber.
As an old Lithuanian legend says, amber is tears of the sea goddess Urata for Kastitis, her deceased lover and a fisherman. The names of this amazing stone that are known to us are related to its unusual properties. Teutons called it "a shining stone", Estonians "a sea stone", Lithuanians "baltas" by the name of sea; the inhabitants of the Baltic coast often called it "flammable stone" or "sea incense".
Information about amber, places of its production and ways of its appearance on the territory of the ancient world can be found in works by Herodotus, Strabo, Plinius and Tacitus. In the Odyssey, Homer mentions amber when describing the interior of private quarters of Menelay, the king of Sparta and the spouse of Helen, along with gold, silver and ivory. Plinius, a Roman writer of the 1st century AD, called amber "the golden burning stone" that can protect its owner from an evil eye. Ancient people believed that amber had not only magical but also different medical properties. Over half hundred recipes of medicines made of amber can be found in old books. In Middle ages it was ground as a powder to be used for preparation of medical aids and fragrances, hence the appearance of a word "ambrosia".
The exhibition Amber in Ancient Cultures. Artwork from the Hermitage Collection is not only about the items found during archaeological excavations of settlements, burial mounds, burial sites but also about the items that surrounded amber and emphasized a special role of this material in the cultures of humankind. The geography of finds stretches from the forest area of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and the Black Sea region to Siberia from where originate the most mysterious ones. The exhibition has a vast chronological range, from the 5th millenium BC until the age of the Great Transmigration of Peoples. It is no wonder that each discovery causes great interest of historians-archaeologists as they reveal the history of peoples, their political relationships and commercial contacts.
The first finds of amber items are related to cultural layers of upper
paleolithic encampments in Pyrenees, Moravia, on the territories of contemporary
Austria, England, Romania and Ukraine. First amber figurines, of a bear
and a horse, were found on the territory of contemporary Poland and relate
to the Mesolithic age
In the stone age cultures of the forest area of Eastern Europe amber
items are found starting from the 6th millenium BC. The Baltic amber was
widely used for making decorations and small plastic artwork
Amber decorations of the Baltic origin are represented in monuments of Scythian
The selection of amber for a charm as a figurine of a lion from the Big burial mound near Armavir (the Kuban region) is not any accidental.
The exhibition is held within the framework of the program The Hermitage in Kaliningrad. It was organized with the support of the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom.
The exhibition visitors will be able to explore the remote past, learn about people and events of ancient ages. The time is passing but decorations and items made of the Baltic amber continue to surround us and are still appealing to people. The items of ancient ages for the first time returned to their homeland, the amber land.