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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

A PRELIMINARY TECHNOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF MIDDLE PRECLASSIC SHELL BEADS FROM PACBITUN, BELIZE**

Abstract

The ancient Maya had one of the most complex societies in the New World. Their society was driven by the production of goods, including items made from stone, bone, and shell. Shell objects were made into various shapes including pendants, bracelets, and beads, which were likely used as both jewelry and currency. During the Middle Preclassic (900-300 BC), shells were predominantly used to make beads for jewelry. At Pacbitun, located in west central Belize, thousands of shell beads, made from marine and freshwater species, have been found in and around domestic houses. In addition to the finished beads, many were found in various stages of production. Found in association with the complete and incomplete beads were also thousands of pieces of detritus and chert drills, both used during the manufacturing process. Their association indicates that during the last millennium BC the Maya at Pacbitun were manufacturing shell beads, likely more than what was needed at the household level. This project uses microscopic techniques to identify how the beads were drilled and also uses experimental archaeology to recreate how long it would have taken to produce each bead. If the drills were used in the production of the beads exactly how they were used is not known. As a consequence, cross-cultural information is needed from neighboring regions to help figure out the technology process.

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