The use of beads in Africa can be traced back at least 12,000 years. The oldest known beads have been found in the Kalahari desert, Sudan and Libya. The earliest beads were made of eggshell, clay, twigs, stones, ivory and bone – glass beads were introduced later by traders from Europe, India and the Middle East.
African Beads Historical Evidence
Similar beads thought to be over 12,000 years old have been found within Kenya, Libya and Sudan adding evidence to the history of the Turkana people who once recognized such beads for their value as currency. Egg-shell beads would be presented to women as part of their dowry prior to marriage. It is also thought such bead-strands were exchanged for cattle and goods in the region.
Cowrie shell beads and bone Beads are thought to be among the first types of beads used for trade purposes within Africa, until the 4th Century B.C when glass beads found their way into Africa from Egypt and Western Europe. Evidence of the glass bead production which dominated the African economies for nearly 700 years has been found within both Egypt and South Africa, dating back to the 9th Century. These minuscule beads were woven into the opulent collars, head-dresses and robes worn by Royal family members, courtiers and those of nobility.
History of Beads in Africa: 4th Century
The history of beads in African is quite incredible, with various artifacts and locations serving as evidence of a rich history of African beads. Burial sites such as the Valley of The Kings have allowed us to uncover a significant wealth of jewelry and decorative artifacts which were made from glass. Glass beads also made their way into Africa from Portugal during the 4th Century, the unofficial beginning of Africa’s booming trade era.
It is not until the 12th Century that we see real evidence of glass bead production within the notable manufacturing areas of today, such as Ghana, the Krobo, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
The methods used within this production are not dissimilar to those practiced today for Recycled Glass Bead production; where ground particles are compacted prior to firing. The early method is referred to as wet-core powder glass bead production and was a painstakingly slow process.
Such beads allowed tribesmen to ply trade with neighboring regions, but were predominantly used for rituals, rites of passage ceremonies and holistic healing. https://www.thebeadchest.com/