Ancient beads and bone.

Since the beginning of time man has sort to adorn his body, The women too, but not anywhere as gaudy. Men and women would use clay to mark intricate designs on their body, then plants were discovered to give off juices that stained the body, it was not long before it was discovered that piercing the skin with the ink was very effective and long lasting. Most of the ancient tattoo was done on women. The earliest record of tattoo was some 2000 BC.

Nuts, seeds, stones of many types and colours were abundant, flowers were used to adorn the hair, but quickly withered. Some of the flowers that were more woody were preserved. Around 5000 years back, about the time fire was discovered, it was found that fire heat melted the ground, specially sand. Glass drops were found in the coals and thus glass was made and evolved, it was then that glass beads were first made. It is entirely possible that glass beads from this era can be found today.

Animal and in some cases, human bone was used to make beads, some times for religious purposes. Beads were also made from shellfish. If the natural world yielded it up, it was used. In the Himalayan area, conch shells were frequently found and used for beads and body adornment… the conch must have been part of an ancient seabed. Conch shells are also found in the high Tibetan plateau.

There is evidence that body marking and beads were used to mark a person with something of significance. Tattoo was used first on mostly women to indicate male dominance, in some cases it was used as a clear signal  to tribe members of some issue, i.e.: that the recipient was not to be trusted.

Most of what is found today in Antique markets world wide is from the 15th century onwards, as I said, it is very possible that some of the beads are from much earlier times, but there would need to be a forensic test done to determine age.

My own interest was very much set in the Himalayan region, running along the entire length and including the area of West India and Burma. I was also fascinated by the Mountainous regions of Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim. Bhutan where the dominant (and my own) religion was Buddhism. In the areas there also existed alongside Buddhism the older more shamanic faiths and in the case of Tibet, the Bon faith which is considered the original religion of Tibet and predated Tibetan Buddhism by many hundreds of years. Interesting side issue is that with the emergence of Buddhism, both religions began to adopt similar external manifestations and even today, are deeply entwined.

These religions, including Buddhism contributed to the rich religious life of the regions and the demand for exotic textiles, often heavily beaded, the use of stones like jade, turquoise, coral and bone was very common, often adopted by the women to signify wealth. Huge strands of beads and bone were used to adorn the necks of women and very exotic head wear was common. The use of precious and semi precious stones was common in the monastic rituals, this also included the use of human bone as part of the teachings and rituals of Tantra. It was seen as vital and indicated renunciation.

My fascination with Tibetan Buddhism saw me going to India and Nepal often as I took teachings and simply explored the complex world I was engaging. The more I looked into Buddhist teachings both sutra and Tantra, the more I explored the lives of these isolated peoples who, because of the isolation had time to develop deep understanding. I was often to be found exploring countries and some would say pillaging things that fascinated me.

The Naga people were not religious in the way we would see religion, but followers of earth religions, evoking local spirits and earth gods and goddesses, they also live a tribal life that was part of a loose knit community. They engaged in tribal wars and the taking of prisoners, the men would almost certainly loose their lives, the women would then inter marry. Their jewellery and body adornments were worn by both men and women, but had quite different meaning. My collection at one time also contained head dress and belts. The beads that I now offer, are very rare, almost certainly unobtainable now and unlikely to ever be seen on international markets again.

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