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Oldest Colored Bead Jewelry Found In Okinawa, Japan

A report published last week revealed the discovery of a 23,000 old colored bead in Japan, the oldest artificially-colored jewelry in the world.

The object in question was actually unearthed 5 years ago. It was found in the Sakitari Cave site, located on the coast of Okinawa. Experts suggest that the bead could be around 23,000 years old, making it from the upper Paleolithic period. The bead is actually carved from a tusk shell. It was painted with a red pigment, which researchers haven’t been able to identify. There are only traces left of the pigment on the bead, yet its pinkish-hue still remains.

Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

While the discovery was made 5 years ago, it was publicly revealed only now as a part of an ongoing exhibition. A detailed report published by the Mainchi involved talking to Seiji Kadowaki,   who is a lecturer at the Nagoya Uniservisty Museum and specializes in prehistoric archaeology. According to Kadowaki, the discovery of the bead suggests that pre-historic people specifically took the efforts to make these objects. The existing consensus among archaeologists is that the pre-historic humans are mostly hunter-gatherers, with the desire for luxuries like jewelry only a sign of later human civilizations. However, the time and effort took to make these beads – from carving the bead to coloring it – suggests otherwise.

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Many other objects were also found at the Sakitari cave, including a fishing hook made from a tusk shell (also considered the oldest in the world). A lump of pigment, which might have served a similar purpose as a crayon, was also found. The bead is currently as part of an exhibition at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum located in Naha.