January 11, 2023 —A collection of Nubian jewels dating back as far as 2500 B.C. will be the subject of a free Zoom webinar scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m., Monday, Jan. 16.

Presented by CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI)’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), the presentation will be narrated by Getty Villa docent Scott Jones, who often does OLLI lectures. The “Nubia, Jewels of Ancient Sudan” exhibit is currently on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

“The jewels are amazing,” Jones said. “When it first arrived at the Getty Villa, I wasn’t really amped out as I’m not a big jewelry fan. But as I began to learn about the collection and how the Nubians interacted with other cultures, I realized this is a significant part of history.”

The free webinar is to connect the community and OLLI members to the current exhibit at the Getty Villa, according to Daniel Banyai, Director of Extended University (EU), which houses the OLLI program. Jones will be leading an in-person tour of the exhibit at Getty Villa two days after the webinar, which is currently sold out, but the Jan. 16 webinar can host about 300 participants.

“We were able to offer 27 OLLI members a ticket to the Getty Villa and free parking in order to check out the exhibit in person,” Banyai said. “We want to offer this free webinar to the community to check out the Nubian exhibit, and our OLLI program and what it has to offer.”

Nubians were an ethnic group indigenous to the area that is now northern Sudan and southern Egypt. Before the Romans began calling the region “Nubia,” it was known as the Kingdom of Kush, whose people engaged in trade, agriculture, industry, and as evidenced by the complexity of some of the jewelry—sophisticated technology.

“As early as 2000 B.C., you see Nubians making a glassy substance called “faience,” which is a combination of ground up silicon or quartz mixed with malachite or azurite to give it color. They would add water and salt and cook it to 1600 degrees to where it glazes.”

The Nubian artisans would mix a paste with the glaze and create spectacular jewelry with the faience and stones and minerals that were plentiful in the area such as carnelian, quartz, gold and a substance called “electrum,” a naturally occurring aggregate of gold and silver.

The jewelry collection is from as early as 2500 B.C. until 350 A.D., a period of ancient history in which the Nubians had significant interaction with other cultures. They traded and intermingled with Syrians, Greeks, Persians and especially Egyptians, which is reflected in their artifacts.

“During the 25th Dynasty, the Nubians rebelled and overcame Egyptian rule,” Jones said. “A lot of people don’t realize they were ruling Egypt for about 100 years. For the most part, the Nubians adopted the Egyptian gods and goddesses.”

Many Nubian pieces depict the Egyptian goddess Hathor, who represented fertility, beauty and happiness. Hathor is perhaps more prevalent in Nubian jewelry than in Egyptian jewelry, Jones said. One such piece is a crystal pendant—almost a perfect sphere—with a solid gold bar inside the pendant, crowned with the goddess Hathor crafted in gold.

This collection was originally excavated between 1913 and 1932 by the Museum of Fine Art Boston and Harvard University under the cognizance of the Sudanese government.

Reading the research on the jewels from the archaeologists has been a labor of love for Jones, who has always been fascinated by history, and spent years traveling around the Middle East representing the United States as a Naval Advisor to the U.S. Department of State. The Sheikh of Oman once sent his helicopter to fly Jones to his desert retreat to discuss U.S maritime sanctions imposed on Iraq.

“I flew out to his tent where he was sitting on luxurious Persian carpets,” Jones recalled. “When I was Naval Advisor, I interacted with a lot of different cultures. I think you learn to be flexible; you learn how to listen and not be judgmental.”

Jones enjoyed a 33-year career as a U.S. Navy captain in charge of three destroyers, which surprised him after his misspent youth growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. After flunking high school math and rarely showing up for his junior college classes, the Vietnam War draft got his attention and he enlisted in the Navy.

He married his high school sweetheart in 1971, when both were 20, with his first assignment at Point Mugu. When his first son was due, his commanding officer would not sign his vacation request to see his new wife until he applied to officer’s training.

“He said ‘Do you like bootcamp?’ And I answered ‘No, sir.’” Jones said. “And he said ‘Well it’s four years of that. I signed up and forgot about it, and wound up getting in.”

He wound up at Purdue University in Indiana, where the guy who showed little interest in high school or junior college graduated at the top of his class with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. His wife eventually earned her degree, too, and the couple raised two sons.

In 2015, Jones retired to Newbury Park where he became an avid photographer, an OLLI lecturer and a docent for the Getty Villa where he leads garden, architecture, and gallery tours for visitors.

Registration for the “Nubia, Jewels of Ancient Sudan” is available online.

To learn more about OLLI: https://go.csuci.edu/olli.

For more on the Getty Villa exhibit, visit: www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/nubian_jewelry.

*Photos courtesy of Scott Jones and the Getty Villa

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