The Origins of Jewelry

The Origins of Jewelry
6 years, 8 months ago 0
Posted in: History

Have you ever wondered when people started to wear jewelry? Fortunately, researchers can help answer this question.

The first jewelry was made from readily available natural materials including animal teeth, bone, various types of shells, carved stone and wood. Initially, these items may have been used to fasten articles of clothing together and perhaps adapted for use as an object for purely aesthetic use, or for use as a spiritual and religious symbol. Jewelry also became a symbol of wealth, power and authority.  In some cultures, jewelry was seen as a symbol of skill in battle and was used as protection from evil.

Jewellry made from mollusk shells, stone and bones survives from prehistoric times. Some of the earliest jewelry  was discovered by a group of researchers led by Christopher Henshilwood of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Shell beads were discovered in the South African Blombus Cave.  The shells date back to the Middle Stone Age, some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago.

At another dig site in the Serengeti National Park, two ostrich eggshell beads were found by a group of University of California researchers led by John Bower. The beads are estimated to be about 70,000 years old.

Prior to these discoveries, and others like them, the earliest artifacts of jewelry found were in Cro-Magnon dwellings dating to around 40,000 years ago These forms of jewelry were crudely made and were also crafted from shells, bones, sinew, mammoth tusks and mother of pearl.

Art or jewelry is generally accepted by archaeologists as tangible evidence of both symbolic thinking and a concept of self. You’re not going to decorate yourself if you have no concept of self.”  As a result of finding this primitive jewelry we can assume that humans developed abstract (or symbolic) thought approximately 75,000 to 100,000 years ago.  Think about it.  Even ancient humans can express something about themselves through jewelry, long after they walked the earth.

 “the first spiritual want of a barbarous man is decoration”

 British archaeologist

Archibald Campbell Carlyle

late 1800s

Jewellery is a universal form of adornment. After doing the research for this article, I have concluded that it is also enduring.

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