Hellenistic gems: animals

Interest in and close observation of animals and insects were apparent in earlier periods of gem engraving and remain strong inspirations for gem devices. The significance of the images is not always clear.

Gem image

Oxford 337 (1910.97g) (Plantzos 634) Cornelian 11x8.5x2mm, flat face and back.

The hawk standing in profile on a ground-line on this gem is identified by the Egyptian double crown placed on its head. The image was adopted by the Ptolemies as personal symbol.

Gem image

Oxford 33910 April, 2012ck.

The significance of an ant shown from above is more difficult to fathom. Many simple devices on small garnets seem primarily chosen for decorative purposes. This does not preclude some personal meaning to the owner, for example a pun, a star sign, or admiration for a virtue represented by the animal, in this case perhaps the industry associated with ants.