The Amber Room: Tears of the Gods © Guinevra 2003

Tears of the Gods: The name is based on Ovids Metamorphosis: He told about the sun God Sol, who permits his too much loved son Phaeton to drive the Sun-Chariot. But Phaeton has not the necessary strength, the chariot went out of control: Heaven and Hell are burning. Zeus sees only one way to stop the damage: He killed Phaeton with a thunderbolt. Phaetons sisters mourn him deeply. They change into trees (why I could not find out). Their tears for the unlucky brother, the resin of their trees, are what we now call Amber.

Amber is 2000 to 65000 million years old. Especial valuable pieces have insects or small stones or other artefacts enclosed in the resin of these old trees. It is beautiful and has some strange attributes. It burns and smells, so in ancient times it also was used as incense. The tears of the Gods, sacrificed once more to the Gods. And if one rubs it, sometimes it tickles and fine cloth or paper can cling to it.

30 000 years in the past already amber was collected at the shores of the East- and North Sea. Our ancestors believed it had magical qualities. Amber accompanied for some thousand years our culture. It was precious merchandise and the Greeks called it Electron, the origin of our modern word electricity. Heinrich Schliemann found hundreds of Amber pearls when he digged in Mycenae, they are about 3400 years old now. Assur also searched 3000 years ago for amber in Lebanon. The demand for amber from the amber isles (Frisian Isles) ever increased.

Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome demanded amber and the value increased constantly. The trade rights were objects of fights. A roman poet complained, that a small statuette of amber was more expensive than a slave.

Phoenicians, Greeks, Etruscs, Ligurian, Venetians and the Kelts bartered for the “Sunbeams of the North”. The North- and the East Sea did not gave enough, so the Romans found the ways to use the Baltic Sea also. It was also mined in later times. Today’s find places are of course around the seas. The yearly amount is about 600 – 900 tons. Most are very small pieces. But mined amber is not nearly so good as the one found in the sea.

Equal to the silk routes there were and are amber routes, Bohemia played a big role there. Archaeological findings show another route between the East Sea and the Black sea.

Till medieval times anybody who found amber was the possessor and could do what he liked with it. That changed with feudalism. The German Knights order fought excessively to gain the amber monopole at the Baltic shores. So the church stepped in of course and 1283 the Knights had the monopole. Their employees searched for and collected the amber kept and overlooked like slaves.

Collecting Amber was and is heavy work, happening in the storms of the fall. When the temperature of the sea is about 0°C and in midst huge masses of seaweed driven by the storm to the shore, the best amber is to be found. Workers had to fetch the seaweed out of the cold water. Sometimes in one night so 2000 pounds were found. The owners of this work of other people, The Order of the Knights. Many different methods of winni8ng amber from the sea were used, but all equal backbreaking and with the lowest wages possible, often only the salt, the fishermen needed to preserve their fish.

The Knights sold the amber to craftsmen, who by and by organised themselves into guilds to compete with the power of the Knights, who sold them the amber.

Trade- and craftsmanship rights changed often till Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia bought most of the rights for himself. That was the start for a new blossom of amber art. Artists took over and the European courts now demanded more and more of their work. The different colour shades, from yellow to brown offered so many possibilities for its use. Figures, statuettes, statues, candle holders, boxes, game boards, even toys were carved from amber. And to close a circle, Christianity used it for decoration of their Saints and churches, like the ancient pagans did for their temples, gods, goddesses, priestesses and priests.

An special splendour was the furniture; the carved amber was pasted on cupboards, panels and of course reliquaries.

The famous amber room was created between 1701 and 1713 by Gottfried Thurau.. King Friedrich Wilhelm I gifted that room to Tsar Peter the great, or better was blackmailed into giving it as price for a treaty. The treaty never was signed, but Tsar Peter gave the king some of the oversized (6 foot and more) soldier the king “collected”, as backbone of his army. This king was called the “Soldier King”, had the biggest and most powerful army in Europe at that time and never fought a war. But in Georgian time amber went out of fashion.

Since the beginning amber also was magical. Magic and healing were connected with it, the folk medicine used it extensional. Powdered for incense it was believed to heal and protect again black magic. The middle ages thought of amber as one of the most powerful medicin. It was used extern and intern against numerous health problems from the plague, over typhus, gought, hysterical attacks, hepatitis, cramps, throat pains, asthma and many health problems more. Even Martin Luther received from a count one piece of amber against his “stones” (maybe gallbladder). In some parts of Poland rural people till today use amber powder against rheum.

In Berlin, the Museum of natural science, owns the possible biggest piece of amber ever found. Weight: 9,75 kilogram.

Now back to the Amber room.

1941 the German military took it from Zarskoje Selo near St. Petersburg and last seen it was in Königsberg. Here the mystery begins that is not solved till today.

What happened to that room?

1941 the Germans arrived before Leningrad (St. Petersburg’s name in the Soviet Union) and took the amber room away.

The next showplace was the castle of Königsberg, where the director of the museum was very satisfied with the returning of the room to Germany. 2 years it was on display there, than packed in once more to shield it against the fighting’s that came nearer and nearer to Germanys border. It had to be safe against bombs and above all, the conquering of Königsberg through the Russians was only a matter of time than.

And here the track is lost. Did it stay, packed secure in boxes in the castle, was it send with trucks deeper into Germany for safekeeping? The director of the museum travelled to Saxony and Thuringia, looking for a safe place for the amber room and the other treasures of his museum. That is proofed. He looked over other castles and palaces, but no mineshafts or other places beneath the earth. So the theory that the Nazis themselves tried to safe keep the room is at least doubtful.

When the Russians conquered Königsberg, the amber room had vanished, or so they told. One theory is, they destroyed it in a fire that ravaged through the castle in a drunken orgy of victory. But this seems unlikely. The Russian army was accompanied, like the German one, by art experts who took care and away all the found desirable for their country. They even hunted down the hidden treasures of German museums. So they found in a mine the complete Picture Gallery of Dresden and took it to Russia, keeping that, till the criticism of the world forced them to give the pictures back to Germany. Most theories say it was taken to Germany before the conquering of Königsberg, or, the German army took the heavy boxes with them, flying before the Russians.

So we have 3 theories now:

1) The amber room was destroyed either in Königsberg or during the flight.

2) Soldiers or one of the victorious allied nations confiscated it and hide it, for what reason ever.

3) It was hidden somewhere by Germans and could not be discovered till today.

These last theory leaded to a treasure hunt that has not stopped till to day, the search located mostly in Thuringia and Chechen. But other places are also considered.

I have my own theory of what happened to the room.

The reconstruction of the amber room, “finished” for the 300-year celebration of St. Petersburg is a hoax. The Russians had it all the time, either found it in Königsberg, or maybe in one or more of the many trucks the German army left behind during their flight from the Russians, when they run out of gas. The room packed and unpacked several times and not secure in the fights was severely damaged when the Russians found it.

So some years ago they began to tell, they intend to make a copy of the room, but they began and finished over the years only the repairs of the damages. My theory is based on two facts. The first: There exists only two pictures of the amber room, a watercolour and one old black and white photo. So how can someone make a copy with only these two not very exact pictures? My second reason is: The fate of another German museum treasure. The so-called Schliemann treasure. Schliemann (his live story is amazing) was an amateur archaeologist, who took Homers Odyssey as his guide book and digged up Troja, or so he thought. He discovered a treasure of gold, jewelry as well as pocals and much more. He paid for it to the government (in contrast to the British people, who just took what they digged out) and the government was happy to take his money. And he gave the treasure to Berlin’s big museum.

1945, after the end of the war, this treasure vanished traceless. A 50 yearlong treasure hunt began, like the one for the amber room. The Russians, who conquered Berlin denied to seen of taken the treasure, the other allieds as well.

Some years ago in a soviet museum party members celebrated, and in a orgy of drunkenness they opened the secret safes and took out the Schliemann treasure, hidden there, to drink Vodka from the golden cups and decorated the women with the jewellery. But they were observed and photographed by an ordinary guard, who managed to give the photo to a western reporter.

The Russians had lied for about 50 years, when they denied the possession of Trojas gold, to avoid giving it back to Germany as they were forced to give back the painting of the Dresden Gallery. They feared the discovery of their possession (like with the Troja gold), so they now present the world with a copy that maybe is the original room or parts of the original.

When a single panel over lived all the fighting, turning up at an auction, could there be not more?

The reason? The yearlong lies, doubts about the ownership. The Troja treasure belongs without doubt to Germany. It was bought and paid for, equal to its value by Schliemann. But even after the revealing they have it, the Russian reject to give it back. The ownership of the amber room is doubtful, it was lured or blackmailed from the Soldier king, but was not his possession but that of the Prussian state, and ever after Germany thought it belongs to it still.

So if I am right, they now would be secure in that possession. My theory is one of the countless about that room. The room would be priceless today, and it begins to be a myth already.

So maybe we come back to Tarot, that played no role in this story, how about us doing readings, where the real room is.

Destroyed, hidden till today in one of the mines in Chechen or Germany, or proudly displayed as the copy of the original?


This page was created September 22, 2003.