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Spheroid Beads

Maya, Classic, general
200-900 CE

On view


Spheroid jadeite beads—as part of composite pendants, necklaces, wristlets, anklets, belts, earflare assemblages, headbands, and headdresses—adorned the bodies of elite individuals), and their placement in burials reveals possible uses of such beads. On a practical level, the sheer weight of the amassed jadeite accoutrements is denoted in some representations by counterweight draped over the wearer’s back (see PC.B.553).

It is unknown whether this assemblage was, in fact, used as a necklace in antiquity, or even if the forty-seven beads originated from a single archaeological context. Based on coloration and texture, eight of the medium-sized to large beads may have been cut from the same stone. At least two beads appear to be of softer stone than jadeite, and their coloration likewise suggests a non-jadeite material. The necklace is composed mostly of oblate spheroid and spherical beads, though some are barrel-shaped, irregular, and hemispherical. Though the majority of the works were perforated with a drill from both ends, the perforations of five, maybe six, beads were made using a string saw, as evidenced by the linear cut marks along the length of the hole, which cre¬ated an angular surface.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 15, cat. 69.

Pillsbury, Joanne, Miriam Doutriaux, Reiko Ishihara-Brito and Alexandre Tokovinine (EDS.) 2012 Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Number 4. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 144, 267-269, pl. 48 (bead no.36), fig. 78, 156.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Dumbarton Oaks, 1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Bead | Mayas | Necklaces