BD 89 is a small glass pendant in the form of a black African male head. It dates to c. 100 BCE, a time when pendants of this subject and style were common throughout the eastern Mediterranean. All share features characteristic of a black African male: dark purple or black coloration; a wide nose and lips; and curly hair.
The meaning of these pendants remains a matter of speculation. Artisans purposefully crafted a detailed human subject endowed with distinct physical characteristics. The uniformity suggests a consistent conceptual starting point, and perhaps therefore a shared purpose. Possible reasons were to evoke curiosity and wonder for ‘exotic’ and distant cultures or places, presumably through a viewer’s unfamiliarity with such physical characteristics. Wearing a pendant such as this may have lent its owner an aura of worldliness, knowledge of and connection to foreign regions.
Viewing these pendants from a modern perspective is more complicated. A contemporary lens may regard depictions of race and ethnicity with caution since exaggeration or manipulation of physical difference can be a catalyst for harmful and antagonistic stereotypes. In this case, the pendant’s accentuated physical characteristics are purposeful, meant to categorize its subject as ‘other’ or distinctly “not Greek.” This intentionality creates a tension, between honest fascination or curiosity with the unfamiliar, on the one hand, and on the other hand generalization or racialization of an entire ethnic group. In form and subject, this pendant reflects the complexities for individuals living in this era of comprehending new people, places, and cultures. As an item of personal adornment, the African Head pendant reflects its owner’s acknowledgement of and interest in expanding his or her known world. As a deliberately ‘othering’ object, perhaps it also helped them distinguish their place within that world.
 Larson, “Personal Adornment: Glass, Stone, Bone, and Shell,” in TA II, iii, p. 114
 Larson, in TA II, iii, p. 114-116
 Larson, in TA II, iii, p. 112-114, 116-118
 Larson, in TA II, iii, p. 116