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20th C. Ethiopian Glass Bead Necklace w/ Coptic Cross

Eastern Africa, Ethiopia, ca. 20th century CE. A brass cross in the traditional and distinctive Coptic Ethiopian style, with three arms in the form of clubs and an openwork pattern at its center and on the fourth, upper arm. The surface is lightly incised and stamped. A heavy loop for suspension is part of the top. It is attached to a necklace strung with thick glass beads in colors ranning from a bright blue to black. Two red cylindrical beads are at the end near the tie that holds the necklace together. There are 118 beads total. Size: 26.6" L of necklace (67.6 cm); cross is: 1.95" W x 2.6" H (5 cm x 6.6 cm); largest bead is 0.3" W (0.8 cm).

Ethiopian Christianity is one of the most distinctive traditions of the religion, founded much earlier than Christianity in most of the rest of Africa thanks to missions from the 1st century until the 4th century, when St. Frumentius of Tyre converted King Ezana. As a result, Ethiopia developed a distinctly African form of Christianity. Geometric designs are characteristic of Ethiopian art, the intertwining lattice style possesses layers of meaning and suggestions of order particular to the culture, symbolizing eternal life and relating to the nature of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Condition: Slight patina, especially on the beads, from handling and wear.

Provenance: private Ventura County, California, USA collection

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