Technological changes in shell bead production in the Levant


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Technological changes in shell bead production in the Levant


S6-1, S3-4 Archaeomalacology: shells in the archaeological record -
Acquisition and use of shell raw materials in prehistory, oral



The main techniques used for producing shell beads were established in several studies, based both on observation and experimentation. The techniques include gouging, grinding, hammering, incising, drilling, the use of natural perforations, or any combination of these techniques. A temporal study shows the evolution of these techniques and the connection between the way shells were perceived, and the way they were exploited through time. The earliest shell beads, dating to the Middle Palaeolithic were naturally perforated ones. Next, small gastropod shell were gouged or scratched, probably with a flint tool. During Upper Palaeolithic we encounter the first evidence for incisions with flint blades, but this is uncommon probably because it rapidly wastes the blades. During the Late Natufian culture of the Levant (13-11.5ka cal BP) shells disk beads are produced for the first time. This required a combination of methods including cutting of blanks, drilling the hole, and grinding the perimeter, or filing it in a grooved stone. The Neolithic periods see an intensification of drilling and grinding and the grinding could have been practiced on the same ground stone tools that were used for grinding of cereals and other foods. The emergence of metal tools allow slightly more accurate results, and the production of other artifacts made of shells, however, the basic technologies for making shell beads do not change.


BAR-YOSEF MAYER Daniella E.1,2


1 Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69778, Israel.
2 Institute of Maritime Studies, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel.


Bar-Yosef Mayer, Daniella E.


August 2010

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Bar-Yosef Mayer, Daniella E.. " Technological changes in shell bead production in the Levant ," in BoneCommons, Item #960, (accessed September 24, 2020).