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Ph.D.

The Jewellery of the Jewish Bride in Sana’a as a cultural and Artistic Message – The 18th century

My Ph.D. dissertation is the first in Israel on Jewels in Yemen in the 18th century. I decided to publish it under the Attribution-Share Alike license. It can be download by clicking on its title: The Jewellery of the Jewish Bride in San’a as a cultural and Artistic Message – The 18th century. The synopsis is in English (pp.1-29) and the dissertation is in Hebrew (pp.30-348).

You’re welcome to review some of the dissertation’s  main innovations:

14 different types of Jewels

This dissertation proves the existence of 14 different types of Jewels owned by Jewish brides in the 18th century in Ga’ bir al-azab (San’a) and Rada’. None was in use after the 18th century:

 The Judeo- Yemenite Name
The Type of the Jewel
מעצ’ד mi’dad 1
לאז, או, כחאל laz,  or kohl 2
דמאלג’ dumluj 3
סלס/מראביט sals/al-marabit 4
עצאבה/סלס isaba/sals 5
דקה/דקה פולול duqqa/duqqa fulul 6
כ’לאכ’ל צדר אלבז khalakhil sadr al-baz 7
חג’אלאת hgalat 8
זוג תליוני צדעיים (עברית) template pendants 9
ח’נק hanak 10
חמת אלעקרב hummat al-aqrab 11
לבה labbah 12
‫סבהלום‬ , בהרמאן The natural crystal of the diamond and its imitations 13
מבחר טבעות: זיאכיר, חדודי, חדידיה, חלק, חדאוד various rings 14

Canonic Jewels

Some of the 14 types of jewels owned by the Jewish brides in the 18th  century in Ga bir al-azab & Rada’ were already documented in Qanun San’a Law from the beginning of the 18th century, which was the law of the Zaydi imams. This paved the way to commence research on the connection between the jewels of the classical Cairo Geniza community (9th-13th centuries) and the jewels of the Jewish community in San’a up till the Galut Mawza’ which had occurred in 1678, including the connection between the 14 types of jewels and the jewels of the Jewish bride in the community of the Cairo Geniza.

‘Pattern Books’

Hebrew illuminated Bibles from Sanaa of the 15th century were a publicly shared in the Jewish community in Ga’ bir al-azab & Rada’ in the 18th century, as the community studied them on daily basis. Besides being holy books they were the common inspirational source for the Jewish community, as well as, ‘pattern books’ for the Jewish silversmiths in Ga’ bir al-azab & Rada’ in the 18th century. Mi’dad is an example to that. Mi’dad is actually binding an illuminated carpet page from an illuminated Hebrew Bible on the wrist of the Jewish bride, reduced to 1/5 of its size and implemented in silver, as a jewel. Thus, most of the jewels.

Shaking the Theory of the Yemenite Jewels as ‘frozen’ Hellenistic Jewels

The only existing theory about the source of Yemeni jewels is a theory that ignores Islamic culture in Yemen. This theory was developed by Mordechai Narkiss, who published it in ca. 1937, based on the personal jewels brought into Israel by Jews of Yemen, before the large waves of aliyah of 1945-1950. Till my dissertation was presented to the Senate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2005, the research in Israel accepted and followed his theory. The dissertation shows 14 types of jewels owned by Jewish brides in the 18th century in Ga’ bir al-azab & Rada’, which passed through Islam and Jewish art under Islam. This fact contradicts his theory. From a methodological point of view, ignoring Islam in connection with Yemen and San’a is a methodological flaw.

This dissertation is a starting point from which to shake his theory from another point of view, as well. This is the style of his corpus. The second Ottoman rule over Yemen in 1872 forced an ‘Ottoman Renaissance’ in jewels. As result, Ottoman Renaissance was the new style in Ga’ bir al- azab in the last decades of the 19th century. The Ottoman Renaissance and not Hellenistic style is reflected in the corpus on which Narkiss based his theory. Actually, the Ottoman Renaissance was a pseudo Hellenistic style.

Summing up, the innovations presented in this dissertation as submitted by Ora Berger to The Senate of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for the purpose of receiving a Ph.D. degree in Philosophy offers a large contribution to research of jewels as brands in Islamic art and Jewish art under Islam, and in the field of jewels as carriers of cultural messages. It provides a starting point for future and various research on jewels as brands in Jewish and Islamic art.

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