Archaeology

Technological analysis and experimental reproduction of the techniques of perforation of quartz beads from the Ceramic period in the Antilles

10.24072/pcjournal.184 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article no. e66.

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Personal ornaments are a very specific kind of material production in human societies and are particularly valuable artifacts for the archaeologist seeking to understand past societies. In the Caribbean, Early Ceramic Age sites have yielded a highly diverse production both in terms of raw materials and typology. In recent years they have been the subject of renewed interest, mainly based on the diversity and provenance of raw materials, and on typological similarity, used as proxies for exchange networks, social interactions and the evolution of these phenomena through the Ceramic Age. Meanwhile, the  chaîne opératoire for lithic beads and pendants has not been investigated in detail, including the process of creating narrow perforations in quartz beads several centimeters long. This hard material (7 on the Mohs scale), represented as rock crystal and amethyst in the collections, is indeed very difficult to perforate without the use of metal drills or harder minerals used as drill-bits or abrasives such as diamond or emery. In this work we demonstrate that it is possible to produce these perforations with cactus thorns and crushed quartz as abrasive powder. We also show that the wear created by our experimental work is fully comparable to the wear visible on the archaeological artifacts. This process, using only materials available to Ceramic Age people, also accounts for the absence of both adequate drills and production wastes of quartz beads in the archaeological record. The investment of Ceramic Age inhabitants of the Lesser Antilles in the production of the many beads made of very hard material recovered in archaeological excavations is once again highlighted. The perforation process, not investigated in detail so far in this archaeological context, has to be taken into account in the value of these highly symbolic artifacts, in addition to the exotic provenance of the raw material.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.184
Raymond, Madeleine 1; Fouéré, Pierrick 2, 3; Ledevin, Ronan 1; Lefrais, Yannick 4; Queffelec, Alain 1

1 UMR5199 CNRS PACEA, Univ. Bordeaux, Ministère de la Culture -- Pessac, France
2 INRAP Nouvelle Aquitaine et Outre-Mer -- Pessac, France
3 UMR5608 CNRS TRACES, Univ. Toulouse Jean Jaurès -- Toulouse, France
4 UMR6034 CNRS Archéosciences Bordeaux, Univ. Bordeaux Montaigne, Univ. Bordeaux -- Pessac, France
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
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Raymond, Madeleine; Fouéré, Pierrick; Ledevin, Ronan; Lefrais, Yannick; Queffelec, Alain. Technological analysis and experimental reproduction of the techniques of perforation of quartz beads from the Ceramic period in the Antilles. Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article  no. e66. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.184. https://peercommunityjournal.org/articles/10.24072/pcjournal.184/

Peer reviewed and recommended by PCI : 10.24072/pci.archaeo.100020

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

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