BACKSTORY: This necklace is 35,000 years old and composed of 131 beads made mostly from mammoth ivory. The beads, which were shaped and drilled by stone tools, were conserved and custom-mounted by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, where they were recently on loan for “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.” After opening in Chicago in 2010, this blockbuster exhibit later traveled to many cities, including St. Louis, Denver, and Boston. The necklace returned to Beloit in December.
PROVENANCE: Excavated in 1910-11 by the self-taught French archaeologist Louis Didon at Abri Blanchard in Southwestern France, these beads were made by one of the earliest groups of fully modern humans in Europe, the people of the Aurignacian culture.
QUESTION: Were these beads worn as a necklace? Archaeologist and former Logan curator Alonzo Pond’18 purchased the beads from Didon and originally assembled them this way for mounting in 1924. No specific evidence exists that these artifacts were intended to be a necklace, but all the beads are pierced, so they clearly served a similar purpose.