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[BBC] First farmers made 'lucky beads'


#1

Jewelry & use of Cultural Symbols
From BBC news, this article.

First farmers made ‘lucky beads’

Some of the first farmers in the Near East probably used green beads
as amulets to protect themselves and their crops, a study suggests.

The authors of the research suggest that early agriculturalists
attached special importance to this color.

Beads they recovered from dig sites in Israel had been made from a
variety of green minerals and the farmers went to great efforts to
obtain them.

Details appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
journal.

Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer, from Israel’s University of Haifa, and
Naomi Porat, from the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem,
examined 221 beads from eight Neolithic (or late stone age) sites
dating to between 11,600 years ago and 8,200 years ago.

None of the minerals the beads were made from came from the
immediate vicinity of the sites. Some were mined from as far afield
as northern Syria, Cyprus and Saudi Arabia.

White, black, brown, yellow and red beads were being made tens of
thousands of years before the advent of agriculture.

But the researchers point out that green beads are first found in
significant numbers during the agricultural revolution which gained
pace from about 10,000 years ago in the Near East.

“We propose that the green color mimics the green of young leaf
blades, which signify germination and embody the wish for successful
crops and for success in fertility,” the authors write in PNAS.

They suggest that the onset of agriculture brought on demographic
changes such as higher birth rates, but also higher child mortality.

These early farmers may have developed new cultural devices for
dealing with these changes.

Green beads were probably used as amulets to ward off evil and as
charms for maintaining the fertility of both people and crops, say
the researchers.


#2

For those interested in the history of jewelry-making, a recent
article appeared in Science News (see

for a lengthy summary) to the effect that “First farmers cultivated
an interest in green stone beads.” Apparently bead-making began at
least 110,000 years ago, but an emphasis on green stone beads only
began at the dawn of agriculture, around 11,000 years ago. (See the
web reference for more detail.)

Of course, the interpretations are at best hypothetical, but at
least there is some archaeological evidence for them.

Peace,
Judy Bjorkman


#3
"We propose that the green color mimics the green of young leaf
blades, which signify germination and embody the wish for
successful crops and for success in fertility," the authors write
in PNAS. 

I have to disagree with the authors of the study.

Self-admittedly, I do not have academic credential which they
supposedly possess, but even I know that humans prefer green color.
This is because our eyes have twice as much cones to perceive green
color than other colors.

To elaborate: cones of the retina can be roughly divided in 3
groups. Cones responsible for red color are the smallest group. Blue
color group is slightly larger, or approximately the same as red.
Cones to perceive green color are equal in number or larger that the
rest of the cones.

This is evolutionary trait because humans evolved in the forests.
They found more beads of green color simply because humans like
green the best.

One would expect that esteemed members of scientific community would
avail themselves of a few basic facts.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#4

Leonid, using the style of reasoning in your statement,

that humans prefer green color. This is because our eyes have
twice as much cones to perceive green color than other colors. 

we could then deduce that, before the agricultural revolution,
humans had fewer eye cones to perceive green, since, as the quote
(below) from the article says,

"Because beads in white, red, yellow, brown and black colors had
been used earlier, we suggest that the occurrence of green beads is
directly related to the onset of agriculture," Bar-Yosef Mayer
says. 

This doesn’t really fit with your statement that “humans evolved in
the forests” because, if so, they should have been using greater
numbers of green beads, long before the onset of agriculture. (I am
making this up-- it is not an hypothesis which I believe, but it is a
reasonable conclusion, using your data.)

Your statement,

One would expect that esteemed members of scientific community
would avail themselves of a few basic facts, 

appears to express sarcasm about the scientific community. Why?

Peace,
Judy Bjorkmaners made “lucky beads”


#5
appears to express sarcasm about the scientific community. Why? 

You are correct in your assessment of my intent, but it is not
directed towards scientific community as a whole. There are some
representatives of the community that it is directed to.

The reason for the sarcasm is simple. Anyone can construct number of
theories to explain things. None of us was there and nothing can be
proven beyond the doubt. So anybody’s theory as good as any other
unless a well established principals are followed. That was the
reason
for my sarcasm.

To elaborate:

Structure of the human eye retina is an established scientific fact.
Applying principal of Occum Razor to the combination of facts of
preponderance of green beads and knowledge of human retina, must
cause any real scientist to conclude that there is a cause and effect
linkage.

Any other theories must be put aside until sufficient evidence
develops. The authors of the study have not provided anything beyond
numerical preponderance of the green color. That is not enough to
propose a theory, especially when there is another explanation
available.

That is the reason for my sarcasm.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#6
the combination of facts of preponderance of green beads and
knowledge of human retina, must cause any real scientist to
conclude that there is a cause and effect linkage 

I simply disagree with this. I regard myself as a "real scientist,“
having majored in chemistry and minored in math and physics. Any
"cause and effect linkage” may be due, in fact, to something
completely different.

Any other theories must be put aside until sufficient evidence
develops. 

This is far too conservative. The evidence is inadequate for your
theory (as I tried to point out in my examples in my previous
e-mail), so why not develop many theories and put them out there for
evaluation? I do agree that more evidence is needed in order to
point the finger of probability toward any one theory.

Personally, I am not convinced about the fertility symbolism
attributed to the increase in green beads. I find it an interesting
idea, more in the realm of conjecture or speculation than a genuine
theory. Your proposal relating the greater number of green rods in
human retinas to the increase in green beads is also an interesting
idea. But, as I suggested in my previous e-mail, it has some
weaknesses in logic.

We’ve probably bored the Orchid forum long enough on this topic…

Judy Bjorkman


#7

Quite often modern man applies a spurious logic as to why ancient
man would do things and archaeologists are about the worst at this,
labelling everything they cannot answer with a ritual meaning.

If you look at things in a truly scientific manner the ritual bit
doesnt hold water in most cases. One of the biggest problems we have
with this is sampling error. Neolithic man made beads out of many
materials and these were commonly widely traded. I have found a
coral bead in the centre of England on a neolithic site. It was
obviously important enough to make and then trade with someone else
many miles away from its point of origin, the same goes for shell and
amber beads in this part of the world. the commonest beads I have
seen of this age or older are made of bone but I would bet that there
were many more wooden beads and adornments made than even bone ones
but they havent survived. i have also seen rather splendid basalt,
jadeite and other stone axes found in the UK but they werent made
here so were they designed as ornaments, currency or were they just
the best stone available where they were made and exported as an
ordinary tool? They obviously had a greater value for locals where
they ended up but there again perhaps the flint tools they made were
high value in Spain and the like where there is little flint.

Once the discovery of smelting copper was made, the technology
spread throughout the world in 200 years (including S America) but
archaeologist talk rubbish about the processes used because they are
not metallurgists or mining technologists. When you have a little
understanding of these subjects then what happened 4000 years ago
makes more sense and I’m sure the same applies to these beads that
were found in a relatively small area.

Nick


#8

Just looked at this yesterday, wondering why it has survived. People
in general so love conjecture and big stories - puts us in the place
of wonder, I guess. I would suggest that the reason for the green
beads is most likely because people in the region made contact with
some traders selling green beads, but that’s just me…Not really
sure why there needs to be “a theory” at all…Doesn’t everyone here
like green beads too, to some degree? Like we are people and they
were not? Some things are just plain silly…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#9
I would suggest that the reason for the green beads is most likely
because people in the region made contact with some traders
selling green beads, but that's just me.....Not really sure why
there needs to be "a theory" at all.... 

No, it’s not just you. I was thinking along the same lines, like
somebody came across some nice green stone they hadn’t had before.

There “needs” to be a theory if you are in the business of
formulating theories for a living.

Noel