Beadwork display at the museum

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Posted: 09/17/2021 09:06:47 AM

Native Americans are well known for their beadwork skills, and the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner has a new beadwork exhibit in the lobby. This exhibit includes a timeline of historical pearls by pearl historian Brian Robertshaw, as well as garments richly adorned with pearls. It will be on display until the end of October and the public is invited to visit the museum to view it and learn more about the crafts.

When people all over the world got tired of their clothes and their dull effects, they started to decorate them. They added color by painting or dyeing the material, or weaving whatever raw materials were available. About 100,000 years ago, they still beautified their appearance by wearing necklaces of seeds, animal teeth, feathers, bones, shells or colored stones, through which they had painstakingly drilled holes. The pieces were strung with tendons or threads of plant fibers.

“Beads, in general, have been used by virtually every culture in the world,” said Brian Robertshaw of Brattleboro, Vermont, a historical pearl authority and owner of the bead supply store, Beadniks. “The earliest forms of glass beads were made in Mesopotamia, from a pottery glaze, which turned into a glass-like material. True glass beads date back around 4000 years, and were made by the Egyptians and Chinese between 2000 and 1000 BC.

During the third or fourth century AD, rosaries were first used by many religions in Europe and Asia. Around 1290, intricate glass beads were produced in Venice and sold throughout Europe. Early explorers and traders traded these colorful beads with the natives along their trade routes to Asia and Africa, where they were much admired and sewn onto clothing and personal effects.

“By the 1400s, traders and merchants introduced glass beads to Native Americans. Columbus brought pearls that he traded or donated to win favor with the locals, ”said Robertshaw. “These pearls were very precious. It is documented that in 1750, a large Dutch blue pearl was exchanged for four beaver pelts, and $ 24 worth of pearls is said to have bought Manhattan.

Bead weaving has become sacred to many cultures around the world, and various cultures have used different bead weaving techniques. Certain patterns or colors identified particular tribal or family groups or conveyed messages.

Today, beads are made all over the world, from wood, precious and semi-precious minerals, glass, paper and plastic. Round beads are common, but some come in various shapes, faceted, carved, or inlaid. Across Africa and among Native Americans, beadwork is used to decorate ceremonial headdresses, tunics, masks, baskets and other items.

More information about this exhibition can be found on the museum’s website: indianmuseum.org.


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