A group of Israeli scientists has found that the fashion for jewellery made of green beads coincides with the beginning of agriculture. Archaeologist Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer, of the University of Haifa in Israel, and geologist Naomi Porat, of the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem, say that ‘beads in white, red, yellow, brown and black colours had been used earlier, but we suggest that the occurrence of green beads is directly related to the onset of agriculture in the region 11,000 years ago’.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bar-Yosef Mayer and Porat argue that ‘green jewellery mimics the colour of young leaf blades, thus signifying a wish for successful crops and fertility’. Settled agriculture probably marks a change in spiritual and ceremonial practice as well, and this is reflected in the growing preference for the colour green, the researchers say.

Green beads did not replace other colours, but at hunter gatherer sites they are rare or absent, whereas at early agricultural villages they account for around half of all beads found. These ancient farmers also travelled greater distances to find green stone for their beads and pendants than they had for other colours in the past — sometimes to sources located more than 100 kilometres away. •


This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 33. Click here to subscribe

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