With its protruding eyes and squashed nose, this Phoenician demon’s head is far from beautiful—an ancient look-alike of comedian Rodney “No Respect” Dangerfield, perhaps. Nevertheless, such glass head pendants were popular throughout the ancient Mediterranean world after the seventh century B.C. Their frightening features may have been their point—scholars believe they were meant to ward off evil.
To create these pendants, glassworkers applied several layers of colored glass to the tip of a mandrel, or rod, and then fused on ready-made elements including glass curls and beads (used for eyes, ears and sometimes noses). This cobalt-blue demon’s head is just under an inch high and dates from the second half of the seventh century to the fifth century B.C. Its red eyebrows and beard were made from threads of red glass trailed onto the blue base. When the beard was applied, the end of the red thread evidently fell onto the demon’s chin.
For eyes, the Phoenician demon has round blue beads encircled by ring-shaped white beads. The blue coil on its head may look like a pompadour hairdo, but it is actually a loop for stringing the pendant on a necklace.
The provenance of this particular demon’s head is unclear: similar pendants have turned up all over the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, and as far afield as the Black Sea.