Marriage contracts on wood

My PhD-research project: Silver zār jewellery from Egypt 1900-1960

I've chosen this topic to work on, because it is an excellent example of my general aim: to show how jewellery is not just adornment, but a living aspect of a culture and in a persons' life.

In this study many collections of Egyptian zār-jewellery will be analyzed. The collections studied are museum collections as well as private collections, providing an unprecedented overview of zār amulets and other jewellery. First, I will introduce the zār ritual and its development over time. Next, I examine how these jewellery items ended up in European museum collections and private collections all over the world after have been with their owner for a lifetime. How did they transition from highly personal, meaningful objects to sellable goods, offered in bulk to outsiders? From there, I track what has been said about them during the century of their existence, charting the divided perspectives ranging from superstition to meaningful act. This will help me in some myth-busting about zār jewellery: many of the things you read online about them have no connection to their original nature.

When I've established a framework of what's what, I will turn to the jewellery itself. Based on the analysis of the jewellery studied and the historical background of the period in which they were produced, the study presents a new view on the meaning of the decoration on silver zār jewellery. They are objects of history: they reflect how socio-political events were incorporated in the collective memory of the zār.


The volume will also contain a reference guide for zār amulets and other jewellery, illustrated with many different examples.