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Neolithic Bead Pendant Necklace

Neolithic Bead Pendant Necklace

Hand-crafted here at Mini Museum, this necklace features a stunning neolithic bead, dating from 5,000 to 12,000 years old. The pale yellow stone used to make these beads is a variety of quartz commonly referred to as citrine or lemon quartz.

While modern citrine, which is often darker and more orange in color, is formed by heat-treating amethyst or smoky quartz, the rare, natural citrine beads of this necklace hail from Morocco. These particular beads come from a private Swiss collection with the original acquisition in the early 1970s.

Based on the country of origin and known citrine deposits in the region, the citrine used in these beads likely originated in the Atlas Mountains. As you might expect, the beads vary in color, texture, and shape, making each necklace absolutely unique.

As pictured above, the necklace comes with a handsome display/storage box and a small information card that also serves as the certificate of authenticity. All components of the necklace are sterling silver, including the 18" (45cm) box-style chain.


The beads measure roughly 1/2" in diameter (15mm). 

About Bead-Making in Human History

Archaeologists consider evidence of beads, purely symbolic personal ornaments that served many different functions, a defining characteristic of early human culture. One of the oldest crafts in human history, bead-making can currently be traced as far back as ~110,000 years to the Aterian culture of Morocco, following the discovery of shell beads found at the Grotte des Pigeons at Taforalt limestone cave.

The study of beads across regions and eras provides a greater understanding of the migration patterns and genetic lineage of the earliest modern humans. Each culture quite literally carried their beads with them to each new place, along with bead-making techniques and tools, leaving a trace of their travels.

Unlike other symbolic ornaments and decorations of the earliest modern humans, personal ornament styles adapted over time at a much slower pace and were less susceptible to cultural diffusion. This preservation of bead-types emphasizes their cultural significance to modern humans, and this slow evolution allows archeologists to more accurately outline the migration patterns and cross-cultural interactions of specific populations.

The earliest discovered beads - those found at the Grotte des Pigeons at Taforalt - are perforated Nassarius gibbosulus shell beads. Early personal ornaments were made using shells, bones, teeth, and other natural objects. Over time, humans would incorporate more exquisite natural materials like ivory, agate, gemstones, and meteoritic iron. The rough, disc-shaped beads in this necklace are typical of late Neolithic cultures dating from 5,000 to 12,000 years ago.

Above: Paintings from the Tassili n'Ajjer plateau (c. 6,000 years ago)

The art of bead-making changed significantly when humans introduced man-made materials. The earliest example of such beads are the glazed ceramic faience beads of the Bronze Age; dating back to the same approximate time as the meteoritic iron beads. It is thought that the process of mixing and firing faience may have led to the discovery of glass-making and glass beads some 2,000 years later. As humans evolved, so too did the art and complexity of bead-making.

Further Reading:

Anikovich, Mikhail V., et al. "Early Upper Paleolithic in Eastern Europe and implications for the dispersal of modern humans." science 315.5809 (2007): 223-226.

d'Errico, Francesco, et al. "Additional evidence on the use of personal ornaments in the Middle Paleolithic of North Africa." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106.38 (2009): 16051-16056.

Francis Jr, Peter. "Toward a social history of beadmakers." BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers 6.1 (1994): 61-80.

Rehren, Thilo, et al. "5,000 years old Egyptian iron beads made from hammered meteoritic iron." Journal of Archaeological Science 40.12 (2013): 4785-4792.

Rigaud, Solange, Claire Manen, and Iñigo García-Martínez de Lagrán. "Symbols in motion: Flexible cultural boundaries and the fast spread of the Neolithic in the western Mediterranean." PloS one 13.5 (2018): e0196488.

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