GREEK CITY TIMES

Dr Monica M. Jackson shares her expertise on ancient Greek jewellery
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ancient Greek jewellery
Dr Monica Jackson


You would be hard pressed to find someone who has not marveled at the jewellery adorning ancient Greeks. Boasting shades of vibrant gold and intricate workmanship, designers to this day continue to draw inspiration from ancient Greece, including creations of coins for necklaces and earrings, as well as leaf motifs.

Esteemed classical archaeologist Dr Monica Jackson is an expert on ancient Greek jewellery and a lecturer specialising in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea areas. She has participated in excavations in Greece, Cyprus and further east, with a particular area of research in Hellenistic gold jewellery. Dr Jackson has lectured extensively about this topic in Australia, the USA and England.
Her latest work is “Hellenistic Gold Jewellery in the Benaki Museum Athens”, a book about jewellery houses in the famous Benaki Museum in Athens, one of the most astounding private collections in existence, showcasing each of these precious artefacts and detailing their significance.

Her latest work is “Hellenistic Gold Jewellery in the Benaki Museum Athens”, a book about jewellery houses in the famous Benaki Museum in Athens, one of the most astounding private collections in existence, showcasing each of these precious artefacts and detailing their significance.

Dr Monica’s book reveals the typology of the ornaments and the elaborate techniques of their manufacture and a separate chapter is also devoted to the historical frame, in which goldsmithing flourished.

The book, which was launched at Benaki in Athens last year, will now be unveiled in Sydney, this Thursday, 15th of February, at the University of Sydney.

GCT recently caught up with Dr Jackson to chat about her passion for archaeology, ancient jewels and her wonderful new book.

What made you enter the field of archaeology?
At a young age growing up in a small country town I dreamt of becoming a famous artist – the dream was encouraged by several first prizes in the local shows. My interest in archaeology began in my second last year at Loreto College boarding school in Brisbane when I discovered the heroes of the ancient world such as Alexander the Great and Hannibal.  My Ancient History teacher, Sister de Montfort took a particular interest in my progress. I was awarded the Ancient History prize and gained an ‘A’ grade in the matriculation exams.

What made you want to specialize in ancient jewellery?

At a young age growing up in a small country town I dreamt of becoming a famous artist – the dream was encouraged by several first prizes in the local shows. My interest in archaeology began in my second last year at Loreto College boarding school in Brisbane when I discovered the heroes of the ancient world such as Alexander the Great and Hannibal.  My Ancient History teacher, Sister de Montfort took a particular interest in my progress. I was awarded the Ancient History prize and gained an ‘A’ grade in the matriculation exams.


What is the most interesting part of the collection you have based your book on?
The collection incorporates a wide range of jewellery types, which give an insight into the nature and use of jewellery throughout the wider Hellenistic world, as far as the western reaches of Central Asia. The chapter ‘Seven Objects: Seven Stories’ exemplifies these interconnections.

What is the most exciting part of your work, and also what is the most challenging?
Micro and miniature techniques of the ancient goldsmiths are the most exciting but also the most challenging. Traditionally archaeologists have tended to marginalize the so-called ‘Minor Arts’ and in particular miniature techniques. Today attitudes are changing, particularly as jewellery is now accepted and published as archaeological artefacts. The ability to examine gold jewellery under the optical microscope is the way forward.

What is the most significant item you have ever come across?
The most significant item is a pair of Eros earrings joined by a fine loop-in-loop chain (Inv. 1562). The dancing Eros holding aloft a cup kantharos has a hidden dimension, discovered under the optical microscope. The smiling face is in fact a comic theatre mask, which may be the goldsmith’s hidden signature.

What lesson do you hope people take away from reading your book?
That every object has a story to tell. Each technically sophisticated piece provides an insight into the competitive world of the Hellenistic goldsmith-jeweller, who worked collaboratively – but demonstrated his individuality in surprising ways.
ancient Greek jewels
Greek City Times - Dr-Monica-M. Jackson
Book Launch: Dr Monica M. Jackson
‘HELLENISTIC GOLD JEWELLERY IN THE BENAKI MUSEUM, ATHENS’
Date: Thursday 15 February 2018, 6.00 pm
Venue: MacLaurin Hall – Main Quadrangle,
The University of Sydney
Followed by light refreshments (free event)
The book will be available for purchase at the launch and following that at the Sydney University Nicholson Museum gift shop. 
Sydney Museums/publications/catalogues