Monica Fall, a graduate student in anthropology at the State University of New York-Binghamton, has been in Beloit since the beginning of January examining Paleolithic collections at the Logan Museum. Her analysis focuses on a set of 35,000-year-old beads, mounted in the form of a necklace, from the archaeological site of Abri Blanchard in southwest France. The beads were made by one of the earliest groups of fully modern humans in Europe, the people of the Aurignacian culture.
The necklace comprises 131 beads, mostly made from mammoth ivory. Along with them are several bead “blanks” that represent different stages of bead manufacture. The beads were excavated by the self-taught French archaeologist Louis Didon at Abri Blanchard in 1910 and 1911. In 1924, Alonzo Pond’18, the assistant curator of the Logan Museum, purchased the beads from Didon for the museum. It was Pond who originally mounted the beads in the form of a necklace.
The beads were recently on loan to the Field Museum in Chicago as part of its traveling exhibit “Mammoths and Mastodons,” which focused on those extinct animals and showcased archaeological material made from mammoth ivory. The exhibit traveled to many cities including St. Louis, Denver, and Boston.
Monica is interested in the personal ornamentation of the Aurignacian people—any material the Aurignacians may have used to decorate their bodies including beads, pendants, and pierced shells and teeth. Her analysis involves microscopic examination of all beads in the Logan’s necklace to determine how each was made, decorated, and hung from or attached to clothing and objects. She hopes the information she collects will shed light on how the people at Abri Blanchard used these personal ornaments to construct and understand their social identity. Monica’s analysis of the necklace will form a core part of her master’s thesis.