24th Amber Seminar, Amberif 2017

Amber - Work of Nature in Human Hands

Nature is perfection. In terms of structure and functions, the animate world, living organisms are still the most perfect and not quite comprehended systems which human beings are tirelessly trying to discover, imitate and use. Breathtaking landscapes, streams and rivers bathed in sunlight are examples of inanimate nature owing to which we, humans, can also exist. In this context, amber and fossil resins once again, in my opinion, reveal their unique and extraordinary qualities which I always mention when thinking about amber. When it formed millions of years ago, amber was part of animate nature. Originating from the resin of trees, it was a deadly trap for not only animals but also plant material. Today, this world, enclosed in amber, fascinates inclusion researchers as often it is the only proof of the existence of a species. So one may perhaps say that amber is the only such delightful example of matter transformed from the animate into the inanimate.

Come across amber once in your lifetime and you will probably be true to it forever. Amber has this added property of attracting remarkable people. Such was Wiesław Gierłowski, a man who was close to amber for practically his entire life. Not only as an artist, art historian and economist but also as an activist and an invaluable organiser. It is to Wiesław Gierłowski, the Co-founder and the first President of the Board, that we owe the fact that the whole amber community can come together in the International Amber Association. Wiesław Gierłowski was also the first president of the World Amber Council. He left behind countless specialist texts about amber in terms of its raw material, technical, economic, commercial and commodity science aspects, among others, which were published in trade literature, domestic and international conference proceedings, and as remarkable monographs. This short word of introduction is not enough to express the respect and recognition for his person. This is why I have decided to dedicate one presentation at this year’s seminar to the Amber Personality of the Century, and in my belief the Amber Personality of All Time, Wiesław Gierłowski. Wiesław Gierłowski’s profile will be presented by the current President of the International Amber Association, Ryszard Uliński, in the lecture: Wiesław Gierłowski—Amber Personality of All Time.

The origin and formation of fossil resin deposits is a very complex and contentious matter. This subject will be addressed in the lecture: The origin of fossil resins (A. Matuszewska), in which the formation of fossil resins will be presented in a botanical and biochemical aspect, among others, with reference to the complexity of fossilisation processes. The extraordinary world of Burmese amber inclusions will be presented in the paper: Cretaceous Burmese amber biota: birds, dinosaurs and insects (B.Wang, J. Szwedo, H. Jiang), during which the seminar audience will find out about truly unique—on a global scale—finds in Cretaceous burmite, not only insects but also reptiles and birds.

Striving to expand the knowledge about amber and, consequently, to get more and more precise information is just one of the aspects which humans can address when reaching out for the magical pieces of amber. And this has indeed been the case since the first studies on the origin and nature of amber presented by Pliny the Elder.

Scientific interest in amber might not have been so great were it not for the fact that nature made this material so very beautiful. The beauty of amber, which now successfully competes but also combines with other precious stones, has been noticed since prehistoric times and has continued through the ages until today. Amber in human hands can gain a completely different dimension: as an ornament or part of a functional item of daily use. The Roman Empire is undoubtedly a special period in history. The artistry of amber products and finds from this period in present-day Poland is addressed by the paper The artistry of amber artefacts from the times of the Roman Empire in present-day Poland (M. Natuniewicz-Sekuła, A. Strobin). The hands of artists have probably never been as perfect anywhere else in the world as in Gdańsk, where some of the most magnificent works and objects of amber art were made. They are currently presented in museums all over the world. Early Modern Era artefacts by Gdańsk-based amber artists and artisans in the world’s museum collections (E. Pawlęga) is a lecture presenting the abundant oeuvre of Gdańsk amber artists and artisans who brought out and highlighted the beauty of amber using masterfully perfected techniques.

I hope that this year’s seminar will interest an audience representing not only various fields of science, technology and art but also people who love amber, work with it professionally or simply value it for being a unique work of nature. Everything is in your hands.

Ewa Wagner-Wysiecka