Actually let’s begin with the new, as we’re getting quite excited about it! July 25th will see the start of the very first National Beading Week, sponsored by The Beadworkers Guild. You don’t have to be a member to take part, there will be all sorts of events happening at bead shops and groups around the country. The aim is to bring beaders together, to have fun sharing ideas and maybe inspire even more people to take up a new craft!

 Beads Unlimited has been around for some time now, in fact next March we’ll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the opening of The Brighton Bead Shop! It really doesn’t seem like nearly five years since we were thinking up ideas for our silver jubilee, where has the time gone? There have been many changes in our 30 year history; did you know though that the humble bead was partly responsible for a rather important change in scientific thinking?

 

Beads are considered to be evidence of ‘modern’ behaviour and symbolic thinking, that is, having a sense of self and wishing to adorn it! Other signs include cave paintings and musical instruments. Scientists at one point believed that this didn’t occur in human beings until 45,000 – 50,000 years ago. The suggestion was that some sort of mutation in the brain led to an explosion in creativity – something we seem to experience here on occasion!

 

This was shown to be unlikely when beads of around 75,000 years old were discovered at Blombos Cave in South Africa. They were made from Nassarius shells, had holes for stringing and even bore traces of red ochre, used as a pigment. A later study, by an international research team, concluded that some very similar shells found in Israel and Algeria went back even further, at between 90,000 – 100,000 years old. They are believed to have been used as beads largely because of the remote locations, which had never been close to water. The perforations they have are not similar to those sometimes caused naturally, they’re thought to have been made deliberately with a sharp flint tool.  

 

Should you wish to view these remarkable beads, you can find some of them in the Natural History Museum in London. They may not be the prettiest of specimens but isn’t it nice to think that our beloved beads are actually rather important?