Amber objects from the Artemision of Ephesos

The amber objects from the Artemision of Ephesos represent one of the most important find assemblages of its kind from an early Greek sanctuary. The raw materials originate from the Baltic Sea region. In Ephesos it was made into jewelry according to Italic models and was then presented as a prestigious votive offering to the goddess Artemis.

Exotic material from the Baltic Sea


Amber objects are very rare in early Greek sanctuaries. The raw materials had to be imported from the remote Baltic Sea as confirmed by the material analyses of the Ephesian finds. Jewelry and small figurines made of amber were exotic objects in the Aegean and were highly prestigious objects. The recovery of 659 objects during the excavations in the Artemision is all the more impressive.

Jewelry for the goddess


Among the amber objects there are only a few figural pieces, including two small human heads in the Geometric style that were originally likely used as earrings. The majority of the finds are beads with pendants that were joined together to form belts, necklaces, and pendants. Based on the holes it is possible to reconstruct their original arrangement. Other pieces were directly sewn onto the material or decorated fibulae and needles that held the garments together. Garments richly decorated with amber were offered to the goddess as special gifts. Models for such jewelry can be found especially in the Iron Age Italy. Particular production techniques point to Italy, particularly Verucchio, an Etruscan center on the southern edge of the Po valley. Belts made of amber, however, have been documented by finds from the Oinotrian necropoleis in the hinterland of modern-day Basilikata in southern Italy. The polis of Siris had been founded by Ionian Greeks and was located along the coast of this region; it was in cultural and economic contact with Ionia.

Greek craftsmen working according to Italic models 


The Greek craftsmen who were making the foreign material amber into jewelry in Ephesos likely used models from Iron Age Italy for this task. Some pieces could also be Italic imports but most of them were probably locally produced. Two semi-finished products of raw amber with drill holes illustrate that a workshop was active on site in the Artemision and produced jewelry and inlays of amber for wooden equipment and furniture in the 7th century BCE.

Deposition in the naos 2


The jewelry made of the rare and exotic material amber was considered to be the most precious possession of the goddess. Two large find assemblages were clearly deposited as a building deposit in the naos 2 (in the greenschist base and below the temple floor). This temple – the second in the Artemision – was constructed around 640/620 BCE and thus provides a terminus ante quem for the pieces of jewelry.