The Color of Personal Ornaments in Prehistoric Periods of the Levant

Author(s): Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Culturing the Body: Prehistoric Perspectives on Identity and Sociality" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Shell beads appear first in the Middle Palaeolithic of the Levant. Their use as personal ornaments is evidence for cognitive abilities and symbolic expressions, however, their colors are limited to white, red and black. Humans’ transition from a foraging economy to agriculture in the Neolithic of the Levant brought with it the first use of stone beads and the first appearance of other colors. Stone and shell beads in the Neolithic came in many colors and shapes. Because beads in white, red and black colors had been used before, I propose that the occurrence of green beads was related to the onset of agriculture. A synthesis of personal ornaments of the Chalcolithic period, following the emergence of agro-pastoralism provides insight into the possible ways in which the society of used to decorate itself. The dominance of white, green and red beads, pendants, bangles, and amulets apparently had additional amuletic or apotropaic functions at the critical time of religion formation. A large variety of raw materials were procured and the interpretation of the shapes and colors of these artifacts is largely based on Ancient Egyptian historic examples and on ethnographic analogies.

Cite this Record

The Color of Personal Ornaments in Prehistoric Periods of the Levant. Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450826)

Spatial Coverage

min long: 26.191; min lat: 12.211 ; max long: 73.477; max lat: 42.94 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22859