The jewelry articles are made of a metal alloy that contained a low percentage of silver, which renders them a somewhat light hue. The jewels reflect known traditions from the early centuries of Islam, which continued to exist within Iran and the Arabian Peninsula; these have reached the Land of Israel via trade and the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, introducing new types of jewels and vessels to the region that have not been known beforehand.
1. Part of a Bracelet
Less than half of the bracelet the bracelet is preserved (diam. 4.5 cm, width 3 cm) and the metal is spotted with weathering stains. The bracelet is made of a thick sheet of metal, decorated along the edges with a filigree-like wire pattern and in its center with alternating triangular and pyramidal units, with ball patterns in between. On the edges are two loops for closing and in-between, a main loop from the other half of the bracelet is inserted; all three loops are secured by a pin that is slipped lengthwise through them.
Alternating decoration of pyramidal and pointed designs is known on Islamic jewelry from the eleventh–twelfth centuries CE and it reappears in the nineteenth century CE (Hasson R. 1987. Early Islamic Jewelry. L.A.Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, Jerusalem: 29, No. 15).
Bracelets, like anklets, were meant to be worn in pairs on the arms and ankles. The bracelet imitates bracelets of silver that were found in the Negev and Sinai and were produced in Egypt;
These were worked in hammering and had a central braid-like design (Goren A. 1990–1993. Jewelry of Bedouin Women in the Negev and Sinai. Israel—Land and People 7-8:291–300, Pl. 10; Weir S. 1990. The Bedouin [British Museum Publications 81]. London).
The body of the bracelet was prepared in a sand casting and afterward the ornamentations were soldered to its center. The small diameter of the bracelet indicates it was probably intended for a girl.
2. Conical Bead
The conical bead (length 8.1 cm, max. diam. 2.5 cm) is hollow and has a spherical base with an opening. Extending up is a conical-shaped sheet that has a triangular cross-section and is decorated with filigree wire along the sides. The bead is complete, yet it has crush marks on the spherical base and on the three parts of the conical sheet.
Beads of this type, made of gold, are known in the Islamic world of the eleventh–twelfth centuries CE (Jenkins M. and Keene M. 1982. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [the Metropolitan Museum, No. 42]. New York), and among the silver jewelry that originates in Yemen and the coastal area of south Oman in the nineteenth century CE (Hawley R. 2000. Silver. The Traditional Art of Oman. London, p. 56). Such beads were placed at the end of a chain, followed by a clasp. Since the bead is large, it was presumably part of a chain composed of large beads, which a woman hung on her chest.
3. Bead in the Shape of an Amulet Holder
The cylindrical bead (length 8.1 cm, diam. 1 cm, diam. including loops 2.2 cm) is made of a hammered and folded sheet with spherical caps at its ends. It is decorated with bands of wavy wire, set between two bands of filigree wire. The face of the bead is squashed and a hole is borne in one of its spherical ends. There are two sets of loops for hanging along the bead; a ring with remains of a chain hangs from one of the loops in the center of the bead.
Cylindrical beads that end with spherical caps were used as amulet holders, in which parchment bearing verses from the Koran was inserted for the purpose of protecting the wearer from the evil eye. The amulet holder was suspended from the center of a chain, flanked on each side by smaller beads, to whose exterior loops were beads or bells attached. The amulet holder is called hirz and the beads flanking it are called khiar (meaning cucumber in Arabic), most likely due to their elongated shape. The bead under discussion is therefore of the khiar type.
The tradition of amulet holders originated in Iran prior to the emergence of Islam; throughout the Islamic world, it is known from beads, dating to the eleventh and thirteenth centuries CE, which were hammered from a silver plate and decorated with geometric designs and inscriptions in the Kufic style (Hasson 1987: Nos. 36, 37). This tradition continued to exist in the Islamic world and is popular today in traditional jewelry of the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Egypt and North Africa (Hawley 2000:33, 44; Weir 1990: Fig. 73).
The occurrence of artifacts dating to the Late Ottoman period (until the end of the nineteenth century CE) in the region should not come as a surprise. At that time, farmers and Bedouin tribes lived in H
olot Yavne and in the Palmah
im region. The village of Nabi Rubin, c. 13 km west of Ramla, was founded in the Mamluk period, during the fifteenth century CE, and was a center for the local population. It had a mosque and funerary structure, which according to Islamic tradition was the burial place of Reuven Ben-Ya‘aqov. A minaret that rose above the mosque collapsed in the early 1990s because of damage caused by the weather and as a result of neglect. An Arabic inscription from the Mamluk period is engraved in stone above the entrance to the funerary structure: “In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful. His Excellency Saif e-Din Tamraz al-Moodi al-Ashrafi, Governor of Gaza, ordered that this blessed tomb be built, may peace be upon Rubin, Prophet of Allah”. The site, located south of Nah
al Soreq and surrounded by a kurkar
wall, was very important. Each year in late summer, following the harvest, the place was the scene of a pilgrimage (ziara
), in which celebrations lasting no less than thirty days that included building an encampment of tents and huts, took place (Fig. 2
). Tens of thousands of Muslims from all over the country participated in these events, which were held until 1948, because the ziara
at Nabi Rubin was second in importance only to that held in Nabi Musa. Today, the site is derelict and abandoned, with the exception of a few Jewish worshipers who visit it, in the frame of re-discovering the “tombs of the righteous”.
Since the site of Nabi Rubin prospered in the Ottoman period, the discovery of the jewelry from the latter part of the period in Holot Yavne, several kilometers south of it, is sufficient to indicate the extensive and bustling activity that transpired in the region.