via Antiquity, 15 August 2023: A new paper in Antiquity reports that reflective shell beads were a common trend 12,000 years ago across the islands of Alor, Timor, and Kisar in Indonesia, indicating shared ornament traditions and inter-island interaction.
One defining characteristic of Homo sapiens is the production and use of personal ornamentation. Evidence from Africa and western Eurasia has dominated discussion, but a growing number of finds directs attention towards Island Southeast Asia. In this article, the authors report on an assemblage of Nautilus shell beads from the Indonesian cave site of Makpan, Alor Island. The highly standardised forms, mostly with two perforations, and evidence of use wear, indicate that these beads were utilised as appliqués. Dating to the terminal Pleistocene, these beads appear to form part of a wider tradition also attested on Timor and Kisar, suggesting an early inter-island network across southern Wallacea.