Neolithic stone pearls from early settlements in Moroccan Sahara - 5000 BC

Sahara became a dessert around 3000 BC. Before that it had been in a wet period
dating back at least to 8000 BC. Remnants of several Neolithic settlements in this period can be found in Moroccan Sahara from this period.

However, it must be mentioned, that many of the beads displayed here might not be genuinely ancient since it is difficult to define the historical time frame for the Neolithic period in Africa. One could argue that some parts of Africa are still in the Neolithic age. In such cases, the age-patina of the beads is the only indicator we have.

The beads
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NEO 1- Wonderful citrin beads - 12 * 5 mm

Note the difference between the beads displayed above and below. They were sourced from the same Neolithic settlements. The ones above are more crude in their shape than the the ones below. It is likely that the hunter gatherer societies in the Sahara did not develop the skills to fine polish and facet stone beads. At least their tools, such as axes, spears and arrows show no sign of fine polishing. Therefore it is likely to assume that the more fine shaped beads came from outside, most probably through contact, maybe even trade with the first more agricultural cultures that had begun to show up in this period.


NEO 2 -
Largest bead: 18 * 5 mm

An example of such a bead exhange you can observe in the picture below. It was found in a Neolithic grave together with a lot of crude shaped beads. However it is standing out as a unique stranger. You can read more about this type of bead here.


  15,5 * 10 mm
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Below you can observe some of the more fine shaped beads in my Neolithic collection.

NEO 3 - Largest disk piece: 18 * 5 mm

The drilling technique of Neolithic beads
The Neolithic beads were produced with the simplest tools! Here you can see the drills used for the pecking of the holes. The pecking was done from both sides of the bead.


Most beads from the Neolithic period are, as you can see on the picture below, not too long.
They are disk shaped.

NEO  5 - largest disk bead to the top left: 38 * 7 mm
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The similarity to early Indus Valley beads displayed below is striking. My guess is that many of the beads we find in the neolithic graves in Sahara, actually came from the more advanced Bronce Age civilizations, from Persia to the Indus Valley.




Indus Valley Culture, Ravi Phase 3300-2800 BC - 10 * 3 mm

When you look at the drills above it gives sense that the beads were mostly tabular. Drilling of long holes in long beads is very difficult and began with the Copper bronce age in West Asia and the Indus Valley. It became a goal in itself to make beads as long and as slender as possible.
Unfortunately I do not have an elongated Indus bead to show you. Instead I display this bead from the Dong Song culture:

It has not been possible to replicate this process of bead making in modern time. On the sites we find a lot of broken beads that tells us that this kind of bead making was a difficult task to make elongated beads.

NEO 6 - 12 * 11 mm

In these more rare bi-conical carnelian beads, the pecking hole is uneven,
often taking shape like a hour glass as you can see below:

NEO 7 - largest bead to the top left: 31 * 10 mm
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Here is a typical Neolithic hand grinding stone:



At that time all beads were hand grinded on these stones.

Neolitic neclace 1 - click on picture for larger image



Neolitic neclace 2 - click on picture for larger image






Contact: Gunnar Muhlman -