Stone Beads

Turquoise trade beads from Beckham County

Stone Beads

Stone beads are found in the early Caddoan occupations of eastern Oklahoma, especially in the Harlan phase. They are typically made of black phosphate nodules which have been shaped and perforated, but stone beads are also made of fine grained sandstone, limestone, cannel coal, pipestone, and other materials. Several examples are illustrated in Figure 23.

The stone beads show variation of form and size although they can be roughly grouped into a tubular form and a more globular - barrel or disk-shaped form. They range in size from small washer-shaped beads about 7 mm in diameter to larger globular beads over 35 mm in diameter. The more tubular-shaped specimens may have a length up to 108 mm (Figure 23a).

The beads have been made by a grinding and polishing process which often took advantage of the phosphate nodule form to economize in labor and keep the bead size as large as possible. Grinding facets are commonly present on many specimens. The perforations were made with stone drills for the most part with the hole begun from each side and the drilling continued until the two holes met, forming an hourglass-shaped cross section. Some of the longer tubular beads, however, have holes with an even bore

 

 

suggesting that they were drilled with a cane or stick using sand as an abrasive material.

Beads, which may be stone beads, are shown on some of the conch shell engravings as being worn on the hair forelock over the forehead. Aside from the small sized washer-shaped beads that appear as necklaces, the stone beads are limited in number when found as if they were worn singly or in a small group of two to four specimens. The typical burial association at the Harlan site which contained stone beads, for example, would have from one to four beads present.

Small washer-shaped stone beads of turquoise or other exotic material have been found in Oklahoma. These are apparently trade goods derived from the Southwest and continued in service as a necklace. It should be noted that beads similar in form to the stone beads were also made of conch shell. Rare examples are made of copper and galena.

The tubular specimen illustrated in Figure 23c is of special interest as it has been made from the stem section of a stone pipe. The pipe was broken but at least one section of the stem was salvaged by grinding off the damaged edges and producing a stone bead.

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