Flowers in the History of Mankind, Part 1: Flowers in Bronze Age, Flowers in Ancient Egypt

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The art of decorating different festive processions, clothing, interior with fresh flowers, leaves, twigs, fruits and other decorative materials has a long history. This is evidenced by the extant examples of applied and decorative arts, architecture, painting and poetry.
Archaeological finds confirming people’s use of flowers go back to the Bronze Age. One of the oldest vessels, which could easily be used for flowers, belongs to the middle Bronze Age. His leg ends with a massive six mouths graceful forms, into each of which the flowers could be inserted. The forms of plants were very diverse. Initially, when various natural materials (horns, feathers, shells, teeth of animals) were widely used for the decoration, often there were also used some twigs, flowers and leaves. Thus, the Scythian and Median priests were holding tamarisk twigs during the sacrifices.

In ancient Egypt flowers were widely used for decoration of palaces, temples, in the carrying out of religious rites. Twigs of various plants decorated the statues of the ancient gods. First the adornments were only a few flowers. One placed before the image of the deity lotus flowers for instance. This custom is still preserved in the Buddhist temples. At great festivals women carried flowers in their hands. Even in vases that decorated homes of Egyptians, it was not a single hole for the bouquet, as now, but there were a lot of small holes, into which one inserted some flowers. Subsequently, they were combined in wreaths, bouquets, garlands of hollyhocks, saffron and lotus petals. Sometimes the plants were well preserved; some of them were found thousands of years later.

When English archaeologist X. Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1929, the scientist was most shocked not by many jewels, but by a modest wreath of flowers, put by the young widow on her husband’s chest. The wreath was so well preserved that one could even understand what flowers there had been:  a cornflower, fruits of poppy, black nightshade and fruits of mandrake – “apple of love.” On the Egyptian paintings related to XXV BC one depicted a lotus inserted into a vessel. Also one discovered an ancient Egyptian vase for flowers referring to XXIV – XXIII century BC that in addition to the basic mouth had still four symmetrically placed on her body there.

On the territory of ancient Mesopotamia one discovered a unique architectural monument of the XXII. BC built by Sumerian artisans in the city of Ur. It was a huge structure with three prisms, diminishing in size, located one above the other and crowned with a temple sparkling with a blue glaze and a gold-plated dome. On the formed terraces one poured soil, in which trees and flowers were grown (the first man-made gardens, created over 1,400 years before the famous gardens of Babylon). In Ancient Thebes, one found in the tomb during the excavation of Ramses II, who lived in the 1317 – 1251 BC a garland of leaves, Perseus (avocado), interspersed with blue petals of nymphs (water lilies) and pink lotus. Pharaoh Ramses III (1200 – 1168 years. BC. E.) mentioned in one of papyruses that for the religious purposes he had presented 19,130,032 bouquets.
Already at that time one expressed with flowers different feelings. And some of the gods of Egyptians even had the appearance of plants: for example, Nefertum god was depicted as a lotus. Flowers were wide common in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Aristophanes mentions the gardens, where roses and violets were blooming in winter in the open field, on the sunny lawns.

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