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Snake Blakeslee Collection

Beads

Just like the present day, jewelry and body decorations were a common occurrence among the Apishapa people. At the Snake Blakeslee site in southwest Colorado, inhabitants wore beads and shells on necklaces and bracelets. Many cultures around the world possessed bone beads.

Many prehistoric beads were made of seashell, eggshell, teeth, and stone, but as time progressed, people learned that bird bones were the perfect material for jewelry and ornaments. A handful of bone beads were found during the excavation of the Juniper House of Mesa Verde in Colorado, which was occupied from 600 to 1300 AD. These beads were also made from bird bones and a few were made from hollow rabbit bones. The people who occupied Mesa Verde and Snake Blakeslee were both aware that beads could be easily made from the hollow bones of birds and smaller animals.

The techniques of creating a bone bead varied from culture to culture, and the artwork on the beads varied as well. The beads made by the Apishapa people were from the bones of birds or small mammals. Birds possessed the preferred bones to make beads because their bones are hollow and light. The artwork joined other beads and shells on a necklace. The Apishapa people collected many bones from different animals. If the bones were from a small mammal, he/she hollowed them in order for string to run through the center. Apishapa people painted and decorated the beads they wore. The large quantities of beads uncovered at the sight gives insight into their cultural importance to the Apishapa people.

The Apishapa people, who left behind artifacts such as bone tools, raw bone, stone tools, and ceramics, occupied the site from 1100 to 1450 AD. Beads are precious prehistoric items that can be easily made from bird bones because they are naturally hollow. Only subtle polishing of the bird bone may be necessary depending on the way it is used. Bone is strong, flexible, and can be easily sharpened to create the ideal tool. For thousands of years, beads have been a part of societies to represent wealth.

After the creation of bone beads, the world evolved and people created beads from other materials. Following bone, metal beads surfaced, and then plastic beads appeared and are still present in the modern world. The worldwide usage of beads, since their creation, shows the importance of beauty and appearance to humans, revealing a commonality between all cultures, past and present.

object A433

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Artifact 433 measured 4.7 cm long and .5 cm wide. There was no angle on this tool and it weighed 1.6 grams. This tool was ranked a 5 on the use wear scale because it had striations visible to the naked eye and one end of this tool appeared to be slightly chipped. I think this tool was made from a rabbit metatarsal or fibula and was used as a bead or tube of some sorts. This is because this bone tool was hollow.

One end is slightly broken. Slight long, vertical striations and very short horizontal striations were found on the tool. Because this bone is hollow, but not extremely small, it's likely from a rabbit. Using the measuring tool, the width is 5.5 mm in the middle of the bone.

This Snake Blakeslee was a bone bead. It measures 4.7cm long and .5cm wide. One end is cleanly cut, polished and rounded, while the opposite end shows evidence of cutting, but is rough and damaged. The bead shows some polishing, but is not highly finished off. Few angular striations can be seen on along the edges of the bead, although they are not prevalent. These could have occurred during the manufacturing process, or are due to friction when the bead moved in a rolling motion once it was strung. The use wear is intermediate, and due to the unrefined nature of its manufacture, it could be concluded that the bead was not of very high value. The bead indicates that items for purely decorative reasons were manufactured, which could tell us that the inhabitants of Snake Blakeslee placed some importance on appearance and presentation.

object A434a

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The first artifact examined was A434a, which appeared to be a bone bead. Based off of preliminary findings it was guessed that the tool was made from a bone found in a bird's wing. When examined under a digital microscope not many identifying striations were found. There was one crack, shown in Figure 1, which is presumed to be from age and not from being used. Based on the shape and gap through the middle of the bone the hypothesis that the tool is a bead seems to be one worth noting.

object A236d

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This is a bone bead artifact, derived from either a bird wing bone (Dr Mark Mitchell) or some sort of long bone shaft, as interpreted by Hamblin (1989). The tip end is fairly sharp, probably beveled, while the blunt end is smoothed, and has an associated hole near it to accommodate some sort of thread for use as a neckless. The entire bead is polished. 

There is little or no macroscopic evidence of wear use markings or polishing on this artifact. It clearly has been used extensively, hence shows wear rank of 5. It displays a very sharp point which could have been used for piercing.

At high magnification, the bone tube tip is very sharp, tapering to - 0.8 mm. The edges leading to the tip appear beveled and smooth. A side view approximately mid length shows a couple of shallow (and questionable) striations which measure 2-15 mm in length, and parallel the long axis of the tube. Finally, the blunt end shows no or very limited beveling, as well as a very small drill hole approximately 6 mm from the blunt end. 

The extensive polish, with the presence of a small hole, suggests this bone bead may have been used primarily as a necklace decoration. Additionally, it would have an additional use of piercing hide or the like, as it has a very sharp tip. Perhaps it was used as a toothpick or a fingernail cleaner! Megascopic bone typology suggested that this is a bone tube or weaving tool; lack of striations suggest it is a bone tube used more for decoration.

object A427b

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Bone is cylindrical and hollow; was likely a bead of some sort. Overall both sides are smooth, with bits of discoloration. On one rim, sides are uneven, one slanting downwards into the hollowed out interior. Likewise, the other tip is uneven, appearing almost jagged, as though either broken or perhaps shaped unevenly

object A236f

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Bone tool labeled A236f displays a multitude of striations on one side of the tool and evidence of polish leading to the belief it was utilized for embellishment. The small and hollow bone tool could be nothing more than a bead for decoration. Most likely the bone of a bird as there are not enough markings to suggest a bigger bone was reduced to the size of 3.2cm and hollowed out. The markings present are on one side that was formed into a square shape and then polished. The other end presents no striations or alterations to the overall shape of the bead.

object A222

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A222 is short, small, and hollow so it's determined to be some kind of decorative bead that came from a bird. There was one long deep striation that ran through the entire bead, but also stemmed off into smaller striations in a few places. Along with this one main striation, there were multiple other deep striations that ran parallel. This was all able to be seen with the naked eye and the hand lens. Through further examination under the microscope, it was reveled that there were even more striations that ran horizontal with the object. This shows that at some point during it's use the bead was also used in a horizontal motion, much like A236b. It also appears that on one end a piece has been broken off. The deep main striation runs directly to the missing piece so it appears that the crack was so severe that it was able to take off a piece of the bead. There also appeared to be a bit of discoloring that could be seen with the naked eye, but clearer under the microscope. This could have been because it was dipped or dropped in something, but could also just be dirt. This artifact was given a 10 for use wear because of the one very deep striation and the multiple smaller striations that all ran parallel to it.