The Epitome of Antique Jewelry (ca. 90,000 BC)

By: The Scribe on Sunday, May 27, 2007

antique jewelryFrom the slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel and the site of Oued Djebbana in Algeria, it appears that archaeologists have discovered the oldest examples of jewelry in the world. The three shell beads date to between 90,000 and 100,000 years old, predating other ancient jewelry finds by 25,000 years.

The shells are all very small, and come from a genus of marine mollusk similar to the Nassarius, and it is believed that they were selected because of their small size and thin fabric that can be easily pierced by a sharp tool. These three shells each have one hole, made by a sharp flint tool, which would have allowed them to be strung together as a bracelet or necklace.

Speculation is that these pieces of shell jewelry had some sort of social meaning, possibly representative of some symbolic behavior or assertion of status. It may be one of the earliest examples of modern behavior by humans of the ancient past, since previous evidences have not been identified as earlier than 50,000 years ago. Something like creating and wearing jewelry is an example of thoughtful creativity, and in the case of these shell pieces, there is no doubt that some forethought went into creating the items.

Namely, the sea isn’t anywhere near Mount Carmel – and in Algeria, the closest shoreline to Oued Djebbana is 200 kilometers away. The shells would have had to be located, gathered, and transported here by people either migrating into the area or perhaps simply brought as items gathered on a seasonal expedition. Either way, the minute size of the shells and the precision of the holes indicate a significant leap in human creativity for which scientists have had no previous evidence.

Want to read more?

A History of Ancient Israel and Judah

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