In the Near East, along with the emergence and spread of food-production economies during the Neolithic (11th-7th mil. cal. BC), a master level of lapidary-crafts was attained and expressed through technological prowess in architecture, tools and art.
In the domain of body ornaments, the major input of the Neolithization was the introduction of resistant, very attractive and exotic varieties of rocks and minerals such as turquoise, carnelian, agate, jadeite, amazonite, serpentinite and malachite, commonly known as “semi-precious” stones. These were transformed into a range of simple to highly sophisticated beads and pendants.
In the Nile Valley, the rhythm (6th-3th mil. cal. BC) and modalities of Neolithization were different from those of the Near Eastern “core” area. Yet, in both regions, the consolidation of farming lifestyle was crucial for the ornamental traditions renewing, particularly through the development of stone bead crafts. In both regions, similarities in the choices of raw materials and in the techno-economic abilities needed for their acquisition and transformation are perceived.
Adult grave with funerary goods
(Middle Neolithic, Upper Nubia, Sudan).
A necklace of carnelian beads. © SFDAS/ Kadruka Project.
Standardized stone beads
(Neolithic cemeteries in Upper Nubia).
© J.Reinold. SFDAS/ Kadruka Project.
PRECIOUS is designed to trace the emergence of specialization in stone bead crafts during the Neolithization(s) of the Near East and the Nile Valley. Considering the diversity of the archaeological contexts (habitats, workshops, graves, etc.), it will evaluate the techno-artistic and economic investments of the Neolithic communities in expressing their identities and beliefs, aiming thereby at providing a comprehensive understanding of their social organization.