Journals-Beads 10-11 1998-1999

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Beads 10-11 (1998-1999)

Dressed to Kill: Jade Beads and Pendants in the Maya Lowlands, by David M. Pendergast
Jade was a material of paramount importance in ancient Maya life owing to its symbolic significance. The meanings of jade’s color lent to the stone, and to those adorned with objects fashioned from it, an unmistakable aura of power. As a result, jade objects figure very prominently in the archaeological record, and their forms and contexts bespeak their ancient meanings. The tracing of the shapes, carving, production techniques, and use history of jades underscores the role of jade in Maya belief, political economy, and personal ornamentation.

Stone Beads and their Imitations, by Robert K. Liu
Simulations of precious-stone beads began to be made as soon as feasible materials became available. From antiquity onward, we have replicas of stone beads made of glazed stone, faience, and other ceramics, and glass. In contemporary times, glass and plastic have become the predominant substitutes for stone beads, although materials of organic origin, such as bone and tusk, have also been used. Information is presented on the background, materials, and techniques for detecting such simulations, using primarily visual clues provided by macro color photographs.

Melanau Bead Culture: A Vanishing World?, by Heidi Munan
Settled on the South China Sea coast of Sarawak, the Melanau comprise an aristocratic society which used to have a strong bead culture, tied to animist religion. Developments in the 19th and 20th centuries have influenced the traditional way of life so that today, only a few Melanau still keep a significant number of beads. Nevertheless, shamen and healers, adherents to the old religion, continue to use beads in healing and purification ceremonies. Bereaved families protect themselves by wearing special beads, and by providing the deceased with beads according to his or her status in the traditional hierarchy. Specific kinds of beads are also prominent in traditional marriage ceremonies. Beads continue to adorn blouses and to serve as personal ornaments.

A History of Gem Beadmaking in Idar-Oberstein, by Si Frazier, Ann Frazier, and Glenn Lehrer
Located at the southwestern edge of Germany, Idar-Oberstein is the historic stone-cutting center of Europe. The origins of the industry go back at least 500 years. The industry was originally based on local deposits of agate, jasper, rock crystal, and amethyst but beginning in the 19th century, all kinds of rough gemstones began to be imported from around the world. The industry grew very rapidly from the middle of the 19th century. A great deal of this success was based on the manufacture of agate beads (“African money”) for export to Africa and the Middle East. This article not only discusses the history of the industry, but also provides in-depth information concerning the techniques and tools used in beadmaking and drilling.

A Brief History of Drills and Drilling, by A. John Gwinnett and Leonard Gorelick
A microscopic examination of silicone impressions of the perforations of beads, sealstones, and amulets has produced a data base of characteristics that help to define what type of drill was used to make them. This article outlines the various types of drills that have been used from the Palaeolithic period to the present day, and notes what microscopic features characterize each one. Scanning electron micrographs illustrate the minute details that are revealed by the silicone impressions.

Venetian Beads, by Frank Hird
Interesting accounts of the manufacture of Venetian glass beads turn up in the most unlikely places. The one reproduced here was published in The Girl’s Own Paper for February 1, 1896 (Vol. 17, No. 840, pp. 292-294). In addition to presenting a decent description of the manufacture of drawn and blown beads during the latter part of the 19th century, Mr. Hird gives us details concerning the setting in which the beadmakers and bead stringers worked. Paint peels from the ceilings of the rooms where women make blown beads, and half-dressed men sweat in the heat from the glass furnaces. It brings the scene to life, something most other accounts fail to do.

Progress and Problems in Recent Trade Bead Research, by Richard G. Conn
Thirty years have passed since the late Richard G. Conn presented this paper at the conference of the Canadian Archaeological Association in Winnipeg, March 8-9, 1968. It is presented here to show us how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

Book, Video and DVD Reviews in Volume 10-11
Beads and Bead Makers: Gender, Material Culture, and Meaning, by Lidia D. Sciama and Joanne B. Eicher (eds.) (1998), reviewed by Carole Morris • Glasperlen Christbaumschmuck/ Glass Bead Christmas Tree Ornaments, by Waltraud Neuwirth (1995), reviewed by Karlis Karklins • Perlern: Archaologie, Techniken, Analysen, by Uta von Freeden and Alfried Wieczorek, eds. (1997), reviewed by Frank Siegmund • Das awarenzeitliche Graberfeld von Halimba. Das Awarische Corpus. Beihefte V, by Gyula Török (1998), reviewed by Katalin Szilagyi • Little Chief’s Gatherings, by James A. Hanson (1996), reviewed by Karlis Karklins.