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A Hoard of Stone Beads near Lake Chad, Nigeria


Graham Connah

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In 1980, a small pot containing 622 carnelian and quartz beads was found accidentally at Ala, in the Nigerian part of the clay plain south of Lake Chad. It appears to constitute a hoard of wealth which its owner buried and subsequently failed to retrieve. Beads of this sort first appear in this area in the second half of the first millennium A.D., but also occur in second-millennium deposits. However, they are usually found as grave goods, and the Ala discovery is almost the only example of a hoard of such beads known to the author. Their presence on the stoneless Chadian plain indicates the development of trading contacts with other areas, but neither the source of the raw materials nor the place of manufacture of the beads is known. The quartz could have come from the Cameroon Mountains but the origin of the carnelian, often assumed to be from India, remains problematic. More attention needs to be paid to the possibility of West African sources and production, but there is also an urgent necessity both to compile a corpus of firmly dated material and to conduct characterization studies that could throw more light on the origin of the carnelian.

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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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