Focus on finds – beads

A selection of stone beads recovered from the Ness. (Sigurd Towrie)

A selection of the stone beads recovered from the Ness. (Sigurd Towrie)

Although we don’t have a huge number of beads at the Ness, the examples we have show exquisite craftsmanship.

Amber beads. (Sigurd Towrie)

Amber beads. (Sigurd Towrie)

Unlike Skara Brae, where the huge bead assemblage was predominantly bone, the Ness beads are made from either stone or amber. That doesn’t mean people at the Ness were not making and using bone beads – it’s more likely they simply have not survived due to the acidic soils across the site.

The size of the beads recovered vary – generally between 1-2cm in diameter – however, one type in particular stands out. Measuring a mere 2mm in diameter, the patience and skill – not to mention eyesight – of whoever made these miniscule artefacts deserves recognition.

What were they used for? Probably the same thing we use beads for today – jewellery, clothing and perhaps hair.

It is interesting to note that outside Neolithic Orkney, there is relatively little evidence for the use of jewellery or dress accessories, of any material.

 

Amber beads. (Sigurd Towrie)

Another two stone beads – the rightmost one was left unfinished. (Sigurd Towrie)

With a diameter of just 2mm, this beautifully made stone bead was a nightmare to handle (you definitely don't want to drop this one), not to mention photograph. (Sigurd Towrie)

With a diameter of just 2mm, this beautifully made stone bead was a nightmare to handle (you definitely don’t want to drop this one) and photograph. (Sigurd Towrie)

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