Ancient African ostrich eggshell beads, new research


This April 2018 video says about itself:

Oldest Known Jewellery Ever Discovered

1. The Neanderthal Jewelry from Croatia

2. Nassarius Snail Beads

3. Ostrich Shell Beads of Kenya

4. Denisovan Stone Bracelet

5. The Gold Riches of Varna

6. Glasswork of Egypt

7. Mesopotamian jewelry

From the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany:

Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 10,000 years of cultural interaction across Africa

November 27, 2019

Summary: Researchers present an expanded analysis of African ostrich eggshell beads, testing the hypothesis that larger beads signal the arrival of herders. The data reveals a more nuanced interpretation that provides greater insight into the history of economic change and cultural contact.

Ostrich eggshell beads are some of the oldest ornaments made by humankind, and they can be found dating back at least 50,000 years in Africa. Previous research in southern Africa has shown that the beads increase in size about 2,000 years ago, when herding populations first enter the region. In the current study, researchers Jennifer Miller and Elizabeth Sawchuk investigate this idea using increased data and evaluate the hypothesis in a new region where it has never before been tested.

Review of old ideas, analysis of old collections

To conduct their study, the researchers recorded the diameters of 1,200 ostrich eggshell beads unearthed from 30 sites in Africa dating to the last 10,000 years. Many of these bead measurements were taken from decades-old unstudied collections, and so are being reported here for the first time. This new data increases the published bead diameter measurements from less than 100 to over 1,000, and reveals new trends that oppose longstanding beliefs.

The ostrich eggshell beads reflect different responses to the introduction of herding between eastern and southern Africa. In southern Africa, new bead styles appear alongside signs of herding, but do not replace the existing forager bead traditions. On the other hand, beads from the eastern Africa sites showed no change in style with the introduction of herding. Although eastern African bead sizes are consistently larger than those from southern Africa, the larger southern African herder beads fall within the eastern African forager size range, hinting at contact between these regions as herding spread. “These beads are symbols that were made by hunter-gatherers from both regions for more than 40,000 years,” says lead author Jennifer Miller, “so changes — or lack thereof — in these symbols tells us how these communities responded to cultural contact and economic change.”

Ostrich eggshell beads tell the story of ancient interaction

The story told by ostrich eggshell beads is more nuanced than previously believed. Contact with outside groups of herders likely introduced new bead styles along with domesticated animals, but the archaeological record suggests the incoming influence did not overwhelm existing local traditions. The existing customs were not replaced with new ones; rather they continued and incorporated some of the new elements.

In eastern Africa, studied here for the first time, there was no apparent change in bead style with the arrival of herding groups from the north. This may be because local foragers adopted herding while retaining their bead-making traditions, because migrant herders possessed similar traditions prior to contact, and/or because incoming herders adopted local styles. “In the modern world, migration, cultural contact, and economic change often create tension,” says Sawchuk, “ancient peoples experienced these situations too, and the patterns in cultural objects like ostrich eggshell beads give us a chance to study how they navigated these experiences.”

The researchers hope that this work inspires a renewed interest into ostrich eggshell beads, and recommend that future studies present individual bead diameters rather than a single average of many. Future research should also investigate questions related to manufacture, chemical identification, and the effects of taphonomic processes and wear on bead diameter. “This study shows that examining old collections can generate important findings without new excavation,” says Miller, “and we hope that future studies will take advantage of the wealth of artifacts that have been excavated but not yet studied.”

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition


Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, finalist photo

This comical photo shows a king penguin quarrelling with a southern elephant seal. It is one of the finalists of the 2019 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

The Brabant Natural History Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands writes about it (translated):

Recognizable! That’s what you think when you look at the photos of the international Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. A nosey seal with a weak smile, two sea otters where it seems that one is trying to save the other, or a marital fight between two exotic birds [European bee-eaters], one of which seems to think his or her own thoughts about it.

Bee-eaters

At least you have to smile about it. And that is precisely the power of the photos: humour to draw attention to – international – nature conservation. Even better when you see them all together.

Dancing bears and lions, a philosophizing monkey and a dreamy squirrel. The prize-winning photos of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, prizes for the most comical animal photos of the year, are coming to Tilburg! The irresistible images can be seen in the sperm whale hall from November 14 on. Also special, because the photos can only be seen in a few places in the world in exhibition form. A great opportunity to show how nice nature can be. The museum immediately seized the opportunity to bring the exhibition to the Netherlands for several years.

With the photo competition, Comedy Wildlife Awards supports the Born Free organization, which is committed to animal protection and welfare. With the competition they call attention to wild animals and the preservation of their living environment. And with the sale of the photos via an auction, they raise money for the Born Free Foundation and the local project Natuur om de Hoek. This allows children to get to know nature in their own neighbourhood on the basis of questions, research and experiment.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards 2019


This 18 October 2019 video from London, England says about itself:

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards 2019 | Natural History Museum

Live from this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, hosted by Chris Packham – see all the #WPY55 winners revealed, as well as interviews with the photographers and commentary from the studio.

Ernst Haeckel, biology and art, Haarlem exhibition


Hummingbirds, by Ernst Haeckel

In Teylers Museum in Haarlem in the Netherlands, there is a special exhibition.

The museum writes about it (translated):

June 1, 2019 to December 8, 2019

In honour of his 100th year of death, the Teylers Museum highlights the wonderful visual world of German zoologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). Haeckel was one of the most important scientists of his time and a very gifted draftsman. Just like his great heroes Goethe and Von Humboldt, he wanted to understand nature in its great context. He used emotion and reason, art and science.

Haeckel’s first research was about micro-organisms from the sea, but ultimately his theories were about the development of all life forms, including humans. His books and his powerful visual language played a major role in spreading Darwin‘s ideas about descent and evolution. His Kunstformen der Natur in particular was a huge success and inspired artists and architects. This work is completely digitized and can be admired online. More than 20 plates from the book can be seen in the exhibition.