Beads and Bead Makers Cover Image

Beads and Bead Makers

Gender, Material Culture and Meaning


Lidia D. Sciama and Joanne B. Eicher (eds)

978-0-8578-5402-5 (online)
978-1-8597-3990-7 (hardback)
978-1-8597-3995-2 (paperback)
978-1-4742-6339-9 (epdf)
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Beads have been used since antiquity, not only to dress the body, but as measures of value in economic and ritual exchanges. Their popularity has never waned, and in recent years their trade has enjoyed a world-wide revival. Beads have deep and multiple meanings: in many cultures, together with garments, they reflect age, gender and social status, and are a vehicle through which people store, exchange and transmit wealth. This absorbing book analyzes techniques and gendered aspects of the making of beads, as well as their role in trade and body adornment, in a wide range of societies, from the ancient Mediterranean to Renaissance Venice and present-day Southern Africa and West Africa, where they have become a symbol of cultural survival and identity. Anyone interested in material culture, anthropology, art history, and gender studies will find that this book provides fascinating insights into attitudes toward the body and its dress as well as systems of social classification.