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Prehistoric Jewellery and the Development of Craft Specialization in the Levant

19th March 2009

Jointly with the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society

Karen Wright, Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

Lecture abstract

What social groups were involved in Neolithic craft production in the Levant?  What was the nature of early forms of craft specialization, long before urban economies evolved?  One way to look at this is to investigate manufacture of Neolithic prestige goods.   Seasonal camps in eastern Jordan revealed unusually detailed evidence for manufacture of stone beads:  debris, blanks, finished beads, and tools for drilling, sawing and abrasion. This lecture describes the lapidary technology at these sites, which date to the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic era.  These sites raise issues about early craft specialization. These beadmakers seem to have been master craftsmen/women, not casual artisans.  It is suggested that these sites illustrate a particular form of  ‘site specialization,’ namely sites located in remote territories and focused on special materials and intensive production of prestige goods. However, these craft activities were also embedded in hunting, herding, and perhaps ritual. Comparisons with other data on early stone beadmaking and craft specialization are discussed.

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