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Amber

Amber carving

History and origin

Amber isnít a mineral but an organic product. Itís a resin from some ancient conifers fossilised living 25 to 50 million years ago. Some pieces found in Lebanon and in Italy were dated up to 130 million years.
Its very low density allows it to float in the brine, which explains its concentration on the beaches of the Baltic sea.
Amber of this provenance is also called succinate due to its high percentage of succinic acid.
Ancient Peoples have always venerated it. It has been an exceptional ornament for more than 35 000 years. It was found in prehistoric caverns along with beads and rests of fineries.
In the funeral chamber of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun as well as in the sanctuary of Apollo in Delphos, Greece, objects made of amber from the Baltic region have been found. The Greeks called it "Elektron", word of which electricity is derived, because it becomes electrically charged when rubbed with a cloth and able to attract small particles.
According to them, the origin of amber was the solidified tears of the sisters of Phaeton, son of Helios, struck down by Zeus furore. This Phaeton stole the Sun chariot without knowing how to drive and was close to set ablaze the UniverseÖ
Homer already mentioned it in its Odyssey among the presents of great value brought by the suitors of Penelope.
We found amber again mentioned as coming from the countries of North, engraved by the Assyrians on an obelisk in the suburbs of Mossul, the ancient Ninive.
The insects that, back then, had been able to keep blood of prehistorical animals in their body before bonding and being locked in the resin of the tree, is the history basis of the film Jurassic Park. The success of this film made rediscover the properties of amber to the general public.

Myths and facts

For a long time, amber was considered as a work of art or as a collector's piece or worn as a jewel.
1000 to 1500 years before our era, Mycenae was an important centre of the Greek civilisation to which amber, even if a part of it came from deposits found in Sicily, was coming from the borders of the Baltic sea. With amber trade, the road from the North to Mycenae, the Phoenicia and by extension the ancient Mediterranean world, has been created.
Amber was trendy for the women of Rome who loved to hold a small piece in the hand, enjoying the smell emitted by it by being warming up this way. In the same era, after Pliny the Elder, a small carved figurine in amber could cost more than a "healthy slave".
The Romans have even sent armed forces to conquer and control the productive regions.
Some orders of Knights were controlling the commerce in the 13th century Europe and possession of rough amber was illegal. Exploitation and commerce were reserved to the rich and powerful. In the 17th century, collection on beaches and illegal commerce were sentenced to death by Prussia where a special court adjudicated, until the 19th century, on the fate of offenders.
In Northern Europe, amber is linked to the legend of Juratť, Queen of the sea, of which her amber palace has been destroyed by her father, God of Thunder. The rests of the palace are now located on the beaches.
It was used, mixed with honey as a remedy against gout disease, asthma and even plague. Among other beliefs, was its power to relieve goiter.
Insects captured in amber helped palaeontologists to piece together life on earth from its origin and itís this way that more than 1 000 different species of insects and plants have been identified.
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