Since ancient times, why do people wear jewelry?

From jewelry, expensive shoes to “luxury” watches, who doesn’t love a little “sparkle”?

The obsession with decorating oneself is not just a trivial activity. Much archaeological evidence shows that wearing jewelry plays a big role in making us the person we are today.

Why do we spend so much money on self-care? In short, it’s because we use that expensive item to communicate with others.

For example, look at the engagement ring. A popular belief in many countries is that a sparkling ring on the ring finger of the left hand means that the wearer is engaged and about to get married. So that ring sent a specific message.

But how is this “artistic” behavior different from other actions we humans do?

According to Newsweek, the short answer lies in abstract human thinking .

Since ancient times, why do people wear jewelry?
The reason we wear jewelry lies in our abstract thinking.

Bluebirds and puffins are both focused on attracting a mate. Their message is simple: “I’m here and I’m healthy.” There’s no conversation about how they send their message – they just…just do it.

Meanwhile our messages – messages sent through expensive items – are programmed using pre-agreed symbols (like a diamond ring) to represent something (engaged and about to get married).

The process by which people agree that something can represent something completely different is what makes us who we are. And jewelry has been at the heart of this element for hundreds of thousands of years.

For archaeologists, finding body jewelry is the closest thing to understanding ancient thought. Their first appearance in the archaeological record tells us when human thought became complex enough to perceive individual characteristics.

Initially humans lived in small groups scattered across the Earth. Everyone knew each other, and interactions with strangers were rare.

Since ancient times, why do people wear jewelry?
Finding body jewelry is the closest thing to understanding ancient thought.

However, as the population grows, the society becomes more complex and not all of us know each other. That means we need to tell others who we are.

So we start climbing certain things to send messages about ourselves as individuals (presence, marital status, leader, healer) and our affiliated groups. .

The use of these body ornaments allows humans to further expand their communities, leading to even more complex thoughts and behaviors.

The earliest evidence of this decoration are red pigments – made from loess soil – that were used by modern humans (Homo Sapiens like us) to paint their bodies 285,000 years ago in Africa.

Since ancient times, why do people wear jewelry?
The earliest evidence of this decoration is the self-painting of the body.

Interestingly, it shows that not long after (about 250,000 years ago), Neanderthals did the same thing in Europe.

However, the body paint doesn’t last long – when you shower, it rains or it simply wears off. It has a limited lifetime.

Jewelry beads, on the other hand, can last for generations . The ability to use and reuse them significantly longer than the time and effort to make them – and so, around at least 100,000 years ago, people gradually realized the advantages of these beads.

Around that time, people in Africa and Israel were looking for white seashells called Nassarius, punching holes through its surface so they could be strung and using them in addition to red paint on the top. body.

Since ancient times, why do people wear jewelry?
Jewelry beads can last for generations.

It is no coincidence that the first jewelry necklaces were made from seashells: they came in the shape we liked (round), the color we liked (white, cream, black) and shiny (this is it). which we particularly like). Small clamshells are also very hardy, able to withstand abrasion or being dropped (very useful).

What’s more, they can be worn in a multitude of different ways – allowing us to convey a variety of messages.

Soon, we find other shiny and bright materials (such as bones, teeth, ivory, deer antlers, stone) to make new decorations and convey more messages.

But what’s more durable than decorative beads? Insert ink into the dermis layer of the skin – aka tattooing.

Sculptures from Europe suggest that tattooing may have been customary since at least 30,000 years ago, although the only evidence of tattooing currently lies with the Tyrolean Iceman – or more commonly known as the Tyrolean Iceman. Otzi.

Since ancient times, why do people wear jewelry?
Tattoo on the arm of the iceman Ötzi.

Considered the victim of a murder 5,300 years ago, Ötzi has 61 different tattoos. From the same period are two predynastic Egyptian mummies, as well as another younger mummy, a Siberian princess 2,500 years ago.

Tattooing also has an impressive history throughout the Pacific.

Because jewelry is so closely associated with communication, archaeologists can trace not only the development of our minds, but also the evolution of society.

For us, the more jewels are found by archaeologists, the more interactions it indicates. The exchange of jewelry shows us who is talking to whom, and new jewelry types also reflect changing circumstances.

All jewelry has value because it tells us something about the person wearing it.