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 Stone Beadmaking

Virtually all stone beads must be drilled, resulting in a hole or perforation (a few stones suitable for beads are naturally perforated). The perforation tells one many things about the bead, including how it was drilled. The dimple, the roughening of the surface before drilling can tell you the steps taken in the beadmaking process.

Ironically, stone beads were quite rare during most of the "Stone Age." In the Neolithic (New Stone Age) we get an increasing number of soft stone beads. Hard stone beads, including carnelian and lapis lazuli, were first made at Mehrgarh, Pakistan in the 4th millennium BC. The Harappan or Indus Valley Civilization that developed in the same general region in the next millennium took stone beadmaking to great heights. These are the foundations of the oldest stone bead industry in the world.

The center of this industry for the last several millennia has been in western India. The Indians were so clever at hiding the information about both the western and southern stone bead industries that the Romans got the story all wrong. In southern India there was an equally important stone bead industry. A major center of this industry was Arikamedu, the same place famous for its glass beads.

India is by no means the only source of stone beads. The most extended history of the small town of Tecali, Mexico is told right here because its stone allowed me to trace it. Vietnam once had an ancient stone industry that exported beads to much of Southeast Asia. Other stories will follow.


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