Thursday, March 6, 2008

Robert Liu-Co-Editor of Ornament magazine Lectures at Bead Society of Los Angeles

Robert Liu, Ph.D Lectures at Bead Society of Los Angeles on Prehistoric Mosaic Jewelry

Cover of Ornament magazine--Prehistoric Mosaic Jewelry Issue: 30.2 2006

Example of Prehistoric Mosaic Pendant

It was such a pleasure to attend a lecture by Ornament co-editor, Robert Liu at the Bead Society of Los Angeles meeting on 3/5/08. His topic focused on prehistoric mosaic jewelry from the Southwestern region of the U.S. In studying these very early forms of adornment, Robert was fortunate to gain access to specimens from the collection of the Pomona College Museum of Art and the Arizona State Museum.

Most interesting was the notion that prehistoric Hohokan people of Arizona, traveled upwards of 300-400 miles, just to gather marine shells from the Pacific coast. Needless to say, these shells with turquoise from the area, were highly valued; formed into intricate mosaic pendant designs.
Although some of the most beautiful pendants represented birds, the pendants were most often created into figures representing frogs. Some were realistic while others were more abstract. It's not clear why frog figures were so prominent, but their association with water, fertility and transformation in an arid climate may have been a factor (not to mention that one species, the Sonoran Desert toad, has gland secretions that have hallucinogenic properties).
These prehistoric people had few tools, yet they were remarkable crafts people, able to create truly exquisite adornments--a testiment to what humans can accomplish when it seems important and adds meaning to their lives.

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