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The jewels of the past
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From the 8th century B.C. on, the Greeks began founding a series of colonies along the Ionic coasts of southern Italy. Taranto, Metaponto, Sibari, Crotone, Locri, Velia and Terina were the main centres of this great colonized area denominated Great Greece. Philosophy, literature and art of the Greek empire greatly influenced the artistic and cultural activities of these colonies. In such a lively cultural climate, goldsmith’s art finds its maximum expression and a great diffusion. Raw materials (gold, hard stones and amber in particular) were provided by the flourishing traffics in the Mediterranean and the production of jewels was guaranteed thanks to the great ability of the local artisans. The most flourishing period was between the end of the 4th century and the 2nd century B.C. The principal centre of production and diffusion was Taranto that, as proved by literary sources, was a lively artistic and cultural centre. The main products of jewellery come from the necropolis near Taranto and from the local centres included in its commercial sphere, but also from some areas in Campania, in Etruria and in Piceno. The commonest manufactured objects were necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings, but also diadems and crowns in relationship to the role that these objects had in the cult of the dead and in funerary customs. As the Roman domination spread out throughout this territory, a breakdown in the jewel manufacture was noted, thus being a sign of economic and political decline of all the colonies.

Further information

Gli ori di Taranto in età ellenistica, by Ettore M. De Juliis, Milano, 1984

Guzzo Pier Giovanni, Oreficerie dalla Magna Grecia. Ornamenti in oro e argento dall'Italia meridionale tra l'VIII e il I secolo, Taranto, 1993

Pugliese CarratelliI, I greci in Occidente: la tradizione filosofica, scientifica e letteraria: dalle collezioni della Biblioteca Marci, Venezia, 1996
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