Monday, 29 June 2015

Prehistoric fashion

Time to chase away the winter blues with something from a nice hot country!  This headband belonged to an individual from the Natufian culture, which thrived between 13,000 BCE and 11,000 BCE in what is now the Levant.

Image found here.

The El Wad headband is made of dentalium shells, and they were obviously strung in rows using fibre that has since rotted away.  The shells themselves are stuck to the skull with some sort of concretion, and it looks as though there were more shells that didn't get stuck to the skull and have fallen away.

Natufians seem to have liked dentalium shells, and they often buried their dead with dentalium jewelry.  This paper gives some interesting insights into the variety of personal adornment the Natufians used, and speculates to some degree about how the items might have been constructed.

The El Wad headband is Early Natufian, meaning that it predates the invention of weaving (see Elizabeth Barber's Prehistoric Textiles, 1991).  I suspect it was most likely made with twined linen thread, much like the textiles being made at that time.  So far I haven't had a lot of luck finding out how the headband was made (surely there must be some pseudomorphs in all that concretion?), but looking at it I can see we have parallel rows of dentalium shells, with a bit of a gap between each row.  To me that suggests the shells were strung on warp threads, with a pair of weft threads twined around the warps between each row of shells.  This would keep the shells in place, and would be consistent with surviving Natufian textiles.


  1. Interesting? Is a dentalium headband going to be your project for HSM # 7, perchance?

    1. Yes indeed, this will be my entry for challenge 7.

    2. And I see I can't type today; I meant the punctuation after the word "Interesting" to be an exclamation point. :-) I'm looking forward to see your headband.