European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results
CORDIS

Making and wearing semi-PRECIOUS stone beads in the Near East and the Nile Valley during the Neolithic: A biographical perspective and microwear approach

Project description

Uncovering the biographies of archaeological beads

Throughout history, dress and adornment has been an indicator of social position. People have always adorned themselves with symbols of status, such as jewellery and tattoos, which dates back at least 5 000 years. In this context, the EU-funded PRECIOUS project will study the symbolic function of semi-precious stone beads in the Near East and the Nile Valley during Neolithisation and the emergence of farming communities. Beads found in burials will undergo geochemical analysis and the biographies (manufacturing, repairing or recycling techniques) will be reconstructed based on microtopographic analyses and comparisons with ethnographic and experimental references. The project will advance the little-studied topic of prehistoric ornaments.

Objective

Beyond their symbolic functions, body ornaments offer crucial information to tackle the social organization of the past societies and to address their techno-cultural behaviours. In this sense, PRECIOUS is dedicated to the study of the first semi-precious stone beads in the Near East and the Nile Valley. The major aim is to understand the production and the consumption systems of these beads during the Neolithisation and the emergence of the farming communities (8th-4th mill. cal. BC). Beads discovered in burials from major Near Eastern and Nubian archaeological sites will be analysed through a microwear approach complemented by geochemical analyses. For the first time in the field of stone ornaments, high-precision surface texture analysis will be applied using the technique of the Confocal Scanning Microscopy (CSM) and metrology software. The “biographies” of the archaeological beads (manufacturing techniques, modalities of uses including accidents, repairing or recycling events) will be reconstructed through microtopographic analyses and comparisons with ethnographic and experimental references. A challenging experimental collection of references will be created as stone bead preforms will first document several drilling and finishing techniques, and then be subject to different scenarios of uses. The ethnographic material available are carnelian beads produced by traditional workshops in Yemen and India. To address the place of semi-precious stone beads within the Neolithic societies, the quality of production (levels of technicity) and maintenance will be assessed and statistically compared with well-defined chronocultural contexts and biological data available for the individuals wearing the ornaments (age, sex). The PRECIOUS project will greatly advance the research on prehistoric ornaments as it proposes the study of a little explored topic with a dedicated multi-approached methodology.

Coordinator

AGENCIA ESTATAL CONSEJO SUPERIOR DE INVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS
Net EU contribution
€ 172 932,48
Address
CALLE SERRANO 117
28006 Madrid
Spain

See on map

Region
Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Total cost
€ 172 932,48