Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space

Jane Balme, Sue O'Connor, Michelle Langley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

While some of the oldest Australian examples of marine shell ornamentation are in archaeological sites that were close to the Pleistocene coastline, in the southern Kimberley of northern Australia, shell beads and other marine objects have been found in both Pleistocene and Holocene contexts more than 300 km from the coast. One of the characteristics of marine shell ornaments is their bright, white, or lustrous appearance that seems to have been intrinsic to their selection as body adornments. Historic photographs and ethnographic evidence reveal that, in the recent past, Indigenous men, women, and children in coastal locations wore such objects in both secular and non-secular contexts. However, further away from their coastal source, the meaning and uses of these artefacts changed, and in far inland Australia, they were imbued with very powerful properties only being used in gender and age restricted ceremonial contexts. Hence, archaeological distributions of marine objects, including shell beads, may be interpreted as reflecting differences in social meaning across time and space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Archaeology of Portable Art
Subtitle of host publicationSoutheast Asian, Pacific and Australian Perspectives
EditorsMichelle Langley, Mirani Litster, Duncan Wright, Sally May
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter16
Pages258-273
Number of pages15
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)9781315299112
ISBN (Print)9781138237766
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Fingerprint

shell
Pleistocene
coast
ornamentation
photograph
artifact
gender
Holocene
archaeological site
woman
distribution

Cite this

Balme, J., O'Connor, S., & Langley, M. (2018). Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space. In M. Langley, M. Litster, D. Wright, & S. May (Eds.), The Archaeology of Portable Art : Southeast Asian, Pacific and Australian Perspectives (1 ed., pp. 258-273). London: Routledge.
Balme, Jane ; O'Connor, Sue ; Langley, Michelle. / Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space. The Archaeology of Portable Art : Southeast Asian, Pacific and Australian Perspectives. editor / Michelle Langley ; Mirani Litster ; Duncan Wright ; Sally May. 1. ed. London : Routledge, 2018. pp. 258-273
@inbook{405ee526260a4c7da47164e622d61948,
title = "Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space",
abstract = "While some of the oldest Australian examples of marine shell ornamentation are in archaeological sites that were close to the Pleistocene coastline, in the southern Kimberley of northern Australia, shell beads and other marine objects have been found in both Pleistocene and Holocene contexts more than 300 km from the coast. One of the characteristics of marine shell ornaments is their bright, white, or lustrous appearance that seems to have been intrinsic to their selection as body adornments. Historic photographs and ethnographic evidence reveal that, in the recent past, Indigenous men, women, and children in coastal locations wore such objects in both secular and non-secular contexts. However, further away from their coastal source, the meaning and uses of these artefacts changed, and in far inland Australia, they were imbued with very powerful properties only being used in gender and age restricted ceremonial contexts. Hence, archaeological distributions of marine objects, including shell beads, may be interpreted as reflecting differences in social meaning across time and space.",
author = "Jane Balme and Sue O'Connor and Michelle Langley",
year = "2018",
language = "English",
isbn = "9781138237766",
pages = "258--273",
editor = "Michelle Langley and Mirani Litster and Duncan Wright and Sally May",
booktitle = "The Archaeology of Portable Art",
publisher = "Routledge",
address = "United States",
edition = "1",

}

Balme, J, O'Connor, S & Langley, M 2018, Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space. in M Langley, M Litster, D Wright & S May (eds), The Archaeology of Portable Art : Southeast Asian, Pacific and Australian Perspectives. 1 edn, Routledge, London, pp. 258-273.

Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space. / Balme, Jane; O'Connor, Sue; Langley, Michelle.

The Archaeology of Portable Art : Southeast Asian, Pacific and Australian Perspectives. ed. / Michelle Langley; Mirani Litster; Duncan Wright; Sally May. 1. ed. London : Routledge, 2018. p. 258-273.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapter

TY - CHAP

T1 - Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space

AU - Balme, Jane

AU - O'Connor, Sue

AU - Langley, Michelle

PY - 2018

Y1 - 2018

N2 - While some of the oldest Australian examples of marine shell ornamentation are in archaeological sites that were close to the Pleistocene coastline, in the southern Kimberley of northern Australia, shell beads and other marine objects have been found in both Pleistocene and Holocene contexts more than 300 km from the coast. One of the characteristics of marine shell ornaments is their bright, white, or lustrous appearance that seems to have been intrinsic to their selection as body adornments. Historic photographs and ethnographic evidence reveal that, in the recent past, Indigenous men, women, and children in coastal locations wore such objects in both secular and non-secular contexts. However, further away from their coastal source, the meaning and uses of these artefacts changed, and in far inland Australia, they were imbued with very powerful properties only being used in gender and age restricted ceremonial contexts. Hence, archaeological distributions of marine objects, including shell beads, may be interpreted as reflecting differences in social meaning across time and space.

AB - While some of the oldest Australian examples of marine shell ornamentation are in archaeological sites that were close to the Pleistocene coastline, in the southern Kimberley of northern Australia, shell beads and other marine objects have been found in both Pleistocene and Holocene contexts more than 300 km from the coast. One of the characteristics of marine shell ornaments is their bright, white, or lustrous appearance that seems to have been intrinsic to their selection as body adornments. Historic photographs and ethnographic evidence reveal that, in the recent past, Indigenous men, women, and children in coastal locations wore such objects in both secular and non-secular contexts. However, further away from their coastal source, the meaning and uses of these artefacts changed, and in far inland Australia, they were imbued with very powerful properties only being used in gender and age restricted ceremonial contexts. Hence, archaeological distributions of marine objects, including shell beads, may be interpreted as reflecting differences in social meaning across time and space.

M3 - Chapter

SN - 9781138237766

SP - 258

EP - 273

BT - The Archaeology of Portable Art

A2 - Langley, Michelle

A2 - Litster, Mirani

A2 - Wright, Duncan

A2 - May, Sally

PB - Routledge

CY - London

ER -

Balme J, O'Connor S, Langley M. Marine shell ornaments in northwestern Australian archaeological sites: different meanings over time and space. In Langley M, Litster M, Wright D, May S, editors, The Archaeology of Portable Art : Southeast Asian, Pacific and Australian Perspectives. 1 ed. London: Routledge. 2018. p. 258-273