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Jewelry and Body Decoration in Prehistoric Times

  • Date iconJune 2 2022 - April 15 2023
  • Curator: Ahiad Ovadia
          Assistant Curator: Michal Kapuller
  • Designer: Tal Gur
  • Byron and Dorothy Gerson Temporary Exhibition Gallery, Archaeology Wing

Jewelry, clothing, ornaments, and tattoos have been around for tens of thousands of years. They were never simply a matter of fashion and beauty; their main function seems to have been to convey complex messages – especially, to express individual and group identity, both in life and in death. For these reasons, jewelry and other forms of adornment can reveal a great deal about the people who use them.

This exhibition examines adornment in the prehistoric world. Through this prism, we shall attempt to connect with the people who lived here thousands of years ago and gain insight into their lifeways, beliefs, and thoughts. The importance of jewelry and other ornaments in these early periods finds particular expression in their use as burial goods, which accompanied the deceased after death. It is also expressed by production techniques, since even the simplest pieces, such as the ostrich eggshell beads, required tremendous effort and skill.

Much is still unknown about adornment in prehistoric times. Comparisons with the practices of contemporary tribal societies provide some explanation for the role of adornment among our prehistoric ancestors. Through the pairing of such insights with the fruits of archaeological research, it has been possible to uncover secrets regarding identity and significance, life and death, in the prehistoric world, some of which are still inherent in jewelry worn today.


Reconstruction of prehistoric jewelry-making techniques:


With the help of Micha Hanuna, an expert on ancient crafts, we have reconstructed the techniques used to build composite drills and to produce  some of the locally excavated jewelry on display in the exhibition: ostrich eggshell beads and fox teeth and gazelle bone pendants.


Micha Hanuna, Ron Kehati, and Linoya Sudri-Maccabi, Bnei Adama

Photography and editing: Amir Ronen