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Article Title

Lucayan Beads from San Salvador, Bahamas (ca. A.D. 900-1500)

Abstract

A variety of Lucayan shell, stone, and coral beads as well as beadmaking waste was recovered from several sites on San Salvador, Bahamas. Following detailed analysis, comparisons to other beadmaking sites in the Greater Caribbean region indicate that fabrication, material, color preference, and even general forms are similar across great distances from the Maya region to the Greater and Lesser Antilles and the Bahamian Archipelago. In some cases, beads appear to have been made at the household level (Middle Pre-Classic Maya, Post Saladoid Lucayans), although certain stratified societies (later Maya, Classic Taíno) seem to have exerted more control or monopoly over bead manufacturing at various times. The beads were predominately white and red in color. Color symbolism suggests that white (or shiny) beads were more preferred and associated with peace, the "celestial complex," gold and silver, the sun and moon, and elite status. Red seems to have been associated with war, the agricultural complex, blood and fertility, the soil and earth, and lower social status. Appreciation of these Lucayan beads includes their beauty, simplicity, symbolism, and the laborious nature of their fabrication, it taking some two months to produce a single strand of a few hundred beads for a single wearer.

Publisher Information

The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.

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