The Dorothy Methvin McClatchey Collection

Necklace

Necklace

Africa
1994.34.99
20th Century

Beads have played an important role in personal adornment throughout Africa. While glass beads are perhaps the most recognizable form of adornment in Africa today, these items did not receive widespread acceptance until the fifteenth century when Europeans began importing beads for trade purposes. Despite the widespread use of glass beads, stone and organic materials (e.g., seeds, bone, teeth, shell, ostrich eggshell) have remained integral components in personal ornaments throughout the country. The earliest known African beads are disk-shaped ostrich eggshell beads that date to circa 10,000 BCE. Ostrich eggshell beads are still used today in the creation of personal ornaments by a variety of groups in Africa, including the Kung San of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, the Dinka (Sudan) and Turkana (Kenya) of East Africa. Amber has also played an important role in personal ornamentation among different groups in Africa, including the Dogon and Fulani (Mali) in West Africa and the Berber (Morocco) of North Africa. This fossilized tree resin was imported from the Baltic to North Africa as early as the seventh century CE. Given the rising cost of true amber, copal and imitation amber have increased in importance in recent years. This substantial necklace incorporates small antelope bones, ostrich eggshell beads, imitation amber and cast brass beads. A counter-weight of similar materials has been placed at center back to help balance the necklace.