Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Anthropology. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 14 June 2024

Ostrich Eggshell Beads in Later Stone Age Contextslocked

Ostrich Eggshell Beads in Later Stone Age Contextslocked

  • Benjamin CollinsBenjamin CollinsUniversity of Manitoba


Ostrich eggshell (OES) beads are a common feature of Later Stone Age (LSA) archaeology throughout eastern and southern Africa and have the potential to inform on site use, cultural diversity, social networks, and site formation. However, too often OES bead assemblages have not been recorded or studied in the necessary detail to make meaningful contributions to these important questions. In this respect, and to aid future research focusing on the African LSA, OES and OES beads must be discussed in detail, beginning with a background to ostriches and their eggs and commenting on why OES is an important raw material. Then, one should consider OES beads in detail, specifically, the manufacturing process, the social context in which they were made, and how they may have been used in the past. Subsequently, the focus should be on how OES bead assemblages are analyzed, as well as archaeometric approaches to studying OES bead residues and OES bead provenance. The potential insights gained from these diverse and multidisciplinary analytical approaches, especially when combined, are then highlighted through discussing trends in OES bead research from African LSA contexts. These trends include the contribution of OES beads to understanding the complex transition from hunter-gatherers to herders, the identification of different cultural groups in the past, and identifying the presence and extent of past social networks. The final focus should be on future research directions that will benefit OES bead research, specifically more detailed approaches to understanding OES bead diversity and the expansion of experimentally derived taphonomic frameworks for identifying past human and nonhuman behaviors in OES bead assemblages. Future research should build on the growing body of detailed OES bead analyses, as they provide unique insight and a strong complement to traditional archaeological approaches to understanding past peoples, groups, and cultures during the African LSA.


  • Archaeology

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription