Your path =Home>Beads and People>Beads in the News

Beads in the News: Archive 1

Articles posted from 9 March 1997 to 27 August 1997

Beads and Japanese Teenage Angst

Posted 27 August 1997 Source CNN/Inter Press Service 26 August 1997

The Inter Press Service story, Japan: for Youth, the Easy Life Leads to Social Ills tells of a lost generation that thinks nothing of spending $400 a month on clothes or even schoolgirls prostituting themselves for the money.

Beads are in the story twice. One girl said that "one of the saddest things that happened in her life" was when should could not afford $200 for a Tamagotchi. This ubiquitous and frustrating toy is in the shape of an egg with a computerized chicken that will die if you don't give it enough love. (There is a Tamagotchi cemetery site on the Web -- I haven't visited it.) The toy is mounted on a key chain and is technically a pendant.

But you could tell that from its name gotchi is egg and tama (or dama) is, well, you guessed it: bead (or jewel). At least thisis what I understand. Thus, kudatama is a tubular bead, kodama is a small bead and is a round bead, and so on. And what are magatama and tombodama?

But, there's more about beads in Japan. The story says:

      This summer, teens are busy following a new fad. This time, they are chasing after charm bracelets, made of payer beads that traditional custom requires the Japanese to funerals. Shopkeepers selling the once-humble bracelet say they are happy the tradition has caught the fancy of teenagers. "When one buys and everyone admires it, you can be sure everybody will want to wear the bracelet," remarked one salesperson.

These bracelets are not a new invention. At least early in this century, Japan was one of the leading prayer bead centers of the world:

      In the Japanese jiu-dxu the Buddhist rosary attained its highest development.... The rosary... plays an important part not only in the religious life but also in the social etiquette of Japan. It is carried by monks and lay people on all occasions of religious celebrations, on visits of ceremony or condolence, at funerals, etc. [Casanowicz 1909:341-2]

      But it is in Japan that the rosary blossoms into its full glory. The religions spirit of the Japanese has expressed itself esthetically in so bewildering and fascinating an array of prayer-rolls that one is puzzled to know what specimens to select for description. There are rosaries for the different sects of Buddhism and for the different classes in society. One is tempted to believe that there are rosaries for each artist's gild and that any one who can discover a new substance for carving or a new combination of beautiful colors and forms is at liberty to invent a chaplet of his own.. [Patton 1922:779]

It is not proper to call these strings of beads "rosaries," a term better left to describe Roman Catholic prayer beads. They are better called by their generic names, prayer strands or prayer beads. The bracelet-sized prayer beads were also discussed by these two sources. See illustration.

A smaller variety of 16 beads, corresponding to the 16 Japanese rohans or chief disciples of Buddha (analogous to the 18 lohans of the Chinese), is chiefly used by lay people on ceremonial and social occasions. It has only one parent bead, or oya-dama, and one elongated, tapering bead in from of a vase or pagoda... called fusa-dome, "tassel stopper... " [Casanowicz 1909:342]

The enterprise of the Japanese government is seen in the fact that during the war with Russia every soldier was furnished with a tiny rosary of 16 beads no larger than a finger-ring. These were highly prized by men on guard-duty or in the trenches. [Patton 1922:779]


Casanowicz, Immanuel M. 1909 The Collection of Rosaries in the United States National Museum Proceedings of the United States National Museum 36(1667):333-59 + 30 plates.

Patton, Cornelius H. 1922 Rosaries of the Great Religions Asia October:772-81, 828.


Beads, Ponzi Schemes and Presidents

Posted 27 August 1997 Source CNN/AP 26 August 1997 and other media

This newest affair where Bill Clinton posed with executives running a Pyramid or Ponzi scheme is all about beads. The racket is to pay off early investors in a big way, attracting many later investors who loose everything. The Pic with the Prez was used on their advertising.

What Unique Gems International Corp., based in Miami, Florida, did was to sell kits of beads for $3000. When the buyer strung them they were paid $4800. The beads are said to be worth only a total of $100.

Over $20 dollars in credit card fraud is at stake. Some people put in more than $100,000. The executives are no where to be found.

Tennis Star Loses Beads

Posted 31 July 1997 Source CNN/Reuters 30 July 1997

Up-and-coming 17-year old American tennis star Venus Williams easily bead Argentine Florencia Labat 6-3 6-2 to set up a showdown with world number one teen Martina Hingis at the Toshiba Classic Woman's Tennis Tournament at Carlesbad, CA.

Her easy win was spoiled by only one event. About 20 purple, green and white beads were dislodged from her corn-rowed hair late in the second set. It didn't seem to faze her, "When I go out there, I don't want my opponent to get a point. Every point is very important to me."

"No doubt," everyone (at least around here) is saying, "it was the beads that did it."

J.J. Audubon's Beads

Posted 4.6.97 Source: Paul Gray in Time 149(23):85 and standard references

A year long show, "Audubon & the Smithsonian" has just opened at the Museum of American History in Washington. Aside from showing copies of his famous work, The Birds of America, other drawings, stuffed models, etc., it features two interesting bead items.

One is a bear claw necklace and the other is a pair of beaded moccasins. Audubon wore these when he went to Britain in 1826. The backwoods costume he wore greatly impressed the English and landed him a publishing deal for his immense work, a deal he could not make in America. As the Encyclopędia Britannica (1942) put it, "When his pictures were exhibited at the Royal Institution of Edinburgh, they became the talk of the town; and in many writers traces may be found of the deep influence the productions of the "American woodsman" exerted upon his contemporaries."

Audubon (1795-1851) was a self-made man. Not only did he teach himself art and ornithology, but his "American woodsman" was a publicity stunt. Born to a French officer and farmer and his Creole mistress in Haiti, John was legally adopted by his father and his wife in Nantes, France when he was nine. In 1803 he went to live on his father's farm near Philadelphia. He was drawing birds by this time, but had yet to see the American frontier. In 1808 he moved to Kentucky and a series of failed businesses took him to Ohio, down the Mississippi and ended in teaching art in New Orleans and St. Francisville in Louisiana.

He was a failure at business, always something of a misfit and quarreled with everyone. Eventually his wife, Lucy Bakewell Audubon persuaded him to devote his time to his paintings as she took upon herself the task of making the family living. By 1826 he was back in Philadephia and had antagonized the local scientific community. It was two years later that he triumphed in Europe and began his publications.

In 1841 he settled permanently in New York City (Audubon Park) where he continued to work until his death a decade later. His legacies are not only in the books he published but also in the "American woodsman" character he invented with the help of beads.

I have not seen this exhibit yet. If you have, tell me all about it through the Office. Let me know if it's OK to post what you say here.

What's in a Name?

Posted 3.4.97 Source: all media

Silver Charm won the 123rd running of the Kentucky Derby. But, of course.

Update: Silver Charm also won the Preakness, but Touch Gold won the Belmont. "Touch Gold" doesn't refer to touching something gold for good luck. It indicates a touchstone, black chalcedony (Lydian stone) used to tell the quality of a gold item.

Destruction of a Beadmaking Village

Posted 12.3.97. Source: Douglas Jehl "Qurna Journal: After 4,000 Years, It's Time for Urban Renewal" The New York Times 4 March 1977:A4.

The Egyptian Government has begun to destroy houses in the village of Qorna (Qurna) across the Nile from Luxor. It has persuaded 300 families to move to a New Qorna, about two miles (3 kms) away. It has also bulldozed 100 of the 1500 houses of this village of 8000.

What's going on? People from Arabia apparently settled Qorna in the 18th century. Late in the century, Europeans (spearheaded by Napoleon's troops) began penetrating Egypt and quickly built a market for antiquities. Qorna happens to be near the Valley of the Kings and sits atop a complex of noble family tombs. For years, the villagers supplemented their farming income with the sale of antiquities they found in the tombs. In 1875 Abdel Rasul, the Sheik of Qorna, discovered the cave in which ancient priests had moved dozens of royal mummies to prevent them from being desecrated by ancient tomb robbers. In recent years, the looting of sites has become more risky and less profitable. The villagers had hit upon another way of making money from tourists.

Enter the bead story. Jehl did not report it, but many people in Qorna are involved in making beads, scarabs and other small gewgaws for the tourist market. They work principally with steatite (soapstone) and carve scarabs and other small sculptures from the stone. To make beads, they powder the stone, form it into beads and fire them. The results are often quite good replicas of ancient Egyptian faience (the first synthetic material).

Now, what will the beadmakers do? The old houses in the village (some a century or older) are large and often house an extended family. Beadmaking is done especially on the roof, the only place the beads can be fired, because the fuel is dung. Already, people moving to "New Qorna" are complaining that their two room apartments are not large enough for the family, let alone their cattle, chickens and goats. And there would be no room for beadmaking.

Many residents are strongly resisting the move. The heads of 70 families signed a petition recently that warned of "revolution with heavy and certain damage" unless there was a change in official policy. The Government does not seem to want to move. Mohammad al-Soghir, general directory of antiquities for Upper Egypt has said flatly, "They will move."

I visited Qorna in 1978. We hired donkeys and had to convince a lot of people (including our guide) that we really wanted to see beadmaking. [See "Bead Report III" in Ornament 4(4), 1980]. I shall return to Egypt for the Berenike excavation early next year. Maybe I can find out more.

Amulets of the Amazons?

Posted 9.3.97. Source: John Noble Wilford "Ancient Graves Of Armed Women Hint at Amazons" TheNew York Times 25 February 1997:C1.

Herodotus wrote some 2500 years ago that Greek soldiers met an army of women beyond the Black Sea. They were called Amazons. The tale of fierce fighting women lived on through the Middle Ages and into the Age of Exploration, when their name was bestowed upon one of the World's mightiest rivers.

Recent archeological work in Kazakhstan in kurgans (mounds) near the Russian border reveal burials of nomads, the Sauromatians from the 6th to 4th centuries BC and Indo-European speaking Sarmantians from the 4th to the 2nd centuries. Many burials of women contained weapons of war. Now, this area is far to the east of where Herodotus said the Amazons were, but they do show (at least most archaeologists agree) that nomadic women were more likely to be ready to defend their herds and family than had been previously thought. Indeed, since weapons have usually been taken as a sign a male burial, that idea now must be rethought.

Particularly striking is one burial of a woman, bow-legged from riding a horse, with an iron dagger on her right and a quiver of 40 bronze-tipped arrows on her left. If that weren't enough, she wore an amulet. It consisted of a leather pouch holding a bronze arrowhead. The amulet was cited by Dr. Davis-Kimball (Berkeley) as evidence that the woman was not just buried with the goods, but was an active hunter and/or fighter.

Another amulet, a golden representation of an animal (a common type in this society) was found around the neck of an apparent priestess. The role of women in nomadic society needs serious reconsideration.

More information is to be found in the current issue of Archaeology and soon in the Journal of Indo-European Studies.

More Archived Stories Here


Small Bead Businesses | Beading & Beadwork | Ancient Beads | Trade Beads
Beadmaking & Materials | Bead Uses | Researching Beads | Beads and People
Center for Bead Research | Book Store | Free Store | Bead Bazaar
Shopping Mall | The Bead Auction | Galleries | People | Events
The Bead Site Home | Chat Line | Contact Us | Site Search Engine | FAQ