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Stone Beads of South and Southeast Asia (Archaeology, Ethnography and Global Connections)

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Item Code: NAP983
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Author: Alok Kumar Kanungo
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788173055850
Pages: 459 (250 Color and 16 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 12.00 X 9.50 inch
Weight 2.30 kg
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description
About the Book

Stone Beads of South and Southeast Asia: Archaeology, Ethnography and Global Connections is by far the most comprehensive book on stone beads. With contributions from 25 leading scholars from 17 research institutions of eight countries, the book dwells on related matter from ancient as well as modern India and other regions of South Asia.

Stone beads have gained the reputation of being one of the most important markers of prehistoric technological complexity, especially in South Asia. Their study is crucial for understanding our past contacts, technology and trade, besides comprehending our mastery over material culture and the procurement of diverse raw materials. Keeping this in mind, this book discusses, with the help of literary and epigraphical references, the development of stone beads through the ages, the utility and fruitfulness of typologies, the techniques historically used in their production and finally the modern scientific procedures which can be used in their study to better understand and interpret the past technology. It also deals with ethnohistorical studies of Khambhat (Cambay) to understand the historical development of the city? the most prominent traditional stone bead industry of the world? since the crafts started there, and ethnographical studies to know the symbolism behind the aggressive use of particular products.

The combined output of this book is a result of long-term fieldwork and experimental and scientific studies in laboratories in not only answering the statics of beads like 'when' and 'where' but also cognitivism, that is, 'why' and ?how?.

About the Author

Dr. Alok Kumar Kanungo, a faculty at IIT Gandhinagar, was born in Odisha and grew up in close contact with many indigenous communities of eastern and north-eastern India. His early childhood experiences led him to eventually focus on archaeological and ethnographic studies of indigenous and ancient technology.

For the last two decades, Dr. Kanungo has travelled and documented the rich heritage of the Nagas of North- East India, and the Bondos and Juangs of Odisha both in the field and in museums across Europe and the United Kingdom. He has worked in many areas where it is difficult to say where anthropology or history stops and archaeology begins. He has studied and published extensively on the subject of glass and glass-bead production, and written or edited 11 books and about five dozen research articles. He has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including Humboldt, Fulbright and Homi Bhabha Fellowships. He has lectured in many universities and research institutes in Taiwan, England, USA, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Italy, France, Turkey, Malaysia, Germany and Thailand, besides India.


Archaeology as a science needs well -trained, motivated and scientific archaeologists to face diverse challenges ahead. This is important for furthering the goals of archaeology in India as well as other countries of South Asia and the world as a whole. In order to begin to meet these needs, the Archaeological Sciences Centre (ASC), Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN), has been conducting targeted and integrated workshops at regular intervals. These workshops have three objectives:

(1) understanding our past with the aid of latest scienti?c and multi- disciplinary approaches, (2) making good quality teaching and training programs available to students and researchers, and (3) professional training of archaeology students and professionals. These workshops have be-netted over a hundred graduate and post-graduate students, research scholars and members of department staff of governmental archaeological services by providing them opportunities to develop their research skills and technical competence and get a more meaningful exposure to archaeological science by interacting with leading professionals of the subject.

Some of the key challenges facing archaeology today are: 1. As part of professional requirement most of the established scholars prefer to write about the result of their research in highly specialized and peer-reviewed journals which reach only a few libraries, whereas this subject has an unwritten mandate to create awareness among the people about their rich cultural heritage thus requiring our publications to reach as many enthusiasts as possible. 2. Many independent publications lack scientific and experimental analyses (in most cases due to unavailability of resources and facilities) which are the two pillars of this subject. The interpretation of an object which is far in time or space is possible only with a multidisciplinary approach. 3. A professional challenge for conference/ workshop proceedings has been that they tend to be collections of papers rather than well-rounded stories about the topic. 4. Yet another challenge is to critically evaluate and present facts about the history of ancient technologies in a more objective and scientific perspective.

Keeping these factors in mind we have conceptualised this series on Indian ancient artefacts of important archaeological markers. In this series we aim to develop reference manuals by engaging the best scholars in different areas. Stone beads started appearing in South Asia, in the southern Indian peninsular context at around 15,000 BP, e.g., limestone beads at Jwalapuram in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Since then there has been no gap in the development of bead producing technology, which reached its zenith in Harappan times and the Indian subcontinent became one of the most important bead producing regions of the world. This position has been maintained till today. Since stone beads are one of the most important markers of prehistoric technological complexity, especially in South Asia, their study is crucial in understanding our past, technology and trade, besides comprehending our mastery over material culture and the procurement of diverse raw materials.

On 1O-14th August 2015, the ASC in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), conducted a short-term course-cum- workshop on History, Science and Technology of Stone Beads. This workshop discussed the development of stone beads through the ages, ranging from literary and epigraphical references, discussions over the utility and fruitfulness of typologies, the techniques historically used in their production and finally the modern scientific procedures which can be used in their study to better understand and interpret the past technology. Experts and participants came from ten countries including USA, UK, France, Japan, Thailand, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India. It was gratifying to see 80 participants from most of the Indian states, representing about 30 universities, research institutes, museums, state departments as well as delegates from beadmaking industries.

An ambitious series like this and workshop having a target to publish a time-bound reference manual, covering all related research areas of the topic is not possible without the vision and support of the head of the institute, trust of the authorities and tireless team effort of the unit I work in. I am indebted to Prof. Sudhir Jain, Director of IITGN for not only supporting the workshop at every stage but also giving his precious time in meeting one and all - experts, participants and craftsmen - who came for the workshop for the welfare of the Centre; Prof. S.P. Mehrotra, the Dean of Research and Development and the coordinator of ASC for all the encouragement and free hand he provided in the conduct of the workshop; Prof. D.P. Roy for the administrative support without entertaining any excuses yet making no reservations about the required paraphernalia; Prof. D.V. Pai for always pitching for a good publication of the outcome; and Michel Danino, the advisor of the ASC for his role to put us in the line of practical achievements.

Dr. V.N. Prabhakar and Dr. Shahida Ansari graciously put up with my constant requests for going through various documents and use of their good offices for logistic support respectively at ASI and Deccan College. Dr. Trupti More, Librarian of the Deccan College, found cross-reference literatures, out of print, rare and unpublished documents in time, without any hesitation to my list of never-ending requests. Dr. T.S. Kumbar, librarian of IITGN did his best too in finding the references as and when those were sought for. The efforts put up by our post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Sandhya Sharma and Dr. Vinod V. were indeed commendable.

Mr. Yashwant Chouhan and Mr. Shailesh Patani took care of all local logistical support, safety, transport, accommodation and food for resource persons and participants; Mrs. Sunita Menon left no stone untumed to facilitate the smooth functioning of the workshop. If Mr. Gaurav Shukla was the man behind the visuals, Ms. Preethi Sampath was the woman behind the attractive posters, banners, brochures, invitations and conference tags during the workshop. Mr. Dayananda Meiti made the coordination with media look effortless. A special word of thanks to Mr. Santosh Raut for his timely help on many occasions.

My gratitude to all the leading experts who came to IITGN, presented their results, trained the students and made sure that the outcome of the workshop in book form was prepared with rigorous scientific and academic standard. Craftsmen Mr. Anwarhusain Shaikh, Mr. Pratap Bhai, Mr. Iqbal Bhai, Mr. Shohib Bhai, Mr. Salman Bhai and Mr. Shadab Bhai of Khambhat made the workshop an experimental training reality for the participants. Mr. Devadatta Phule (artist) has brought the past alive in his design of the cover page. The time spared by Dr. Pranab Sharma and Mr. Mudit Trivedi for going through some of the papers is appreciated. Timely support of Banaras Beads Limited is acknowledged.


There has been a growing need for comprehensive books focusing on archaeological artefacts from ancient India and South Asia, encompassing scientific applications that have global appeal. This is particularly relevant for the many different types of traditional crafts that have survived and adapted to the onslaught of periodic modernization for hundreds if not thousands of years. Stone beads are among the earliest preserved ornaments fashioned and worn by humans. Being small and easy to wear, carry and trade, they have been transported thousands of kilo metres, across both land and sea, and have a long history of production and use in the Indian subcontinent. Their history is preserved in the archaeological record, epigraphy and ancient literature, representations in sculpture and paintings, as well as in the present-day traditional beads craft centres. Bead production techniques encompass a wide range of technologies ranging from both simple to highly complex, and involve the use of organic materials, stone, ceramic and glass. These technologies developed and evolved through time, based on both the creative inspiration of individual craftspeople as well as the need to meet the demands of both local and international consumers. Beginning with the earliest stone beads (limestone) dating to more than 15,000 years ago at Jwalapuram in India, hard stone beads 9,000 years ago at sites such as Mehrgarh, Pakistan and later at Bhiranna, India, the mastery of shaping, drilling and polishing stone beads made South Asian beads among the most sought-after luxury items in the world. These beads were used by all levels of society as a way to both integrate communities culturally through the use of important symbolic objects as well as to differentiate people by the qualities of raw materials and complexities of production.

This book is the first of the series on the various artefacts which demonstrate important continuities from past to present. These artefacts also help us to better understand the importance of the past for developing new technologies in the future.

The entire book is divided into four sub- themes. Under the first, viz. 'Beads: Importance and Literature' there are four essays. Kishor Basa in his paper on 'Small Find, Immense Impact: Importance of Bead Studies' reviews the shifts in the study of beads alongside the major artefactual trends and debates on beads in South Asia stressing the need to study distribution and variability as indexes of the semiotic capacities in which beads serve to communicate social distinctions and preferences. The paper on 'Jewels and Jewellery in Early Indian Archaeology and Literature' by R.S. Bisht gives an overview of terms and terminology and Vedic references for the stone beads in Rigveda, Atharvaveda and other later Vedic texts and Sanskrit literature like that of Kautilya's Arthasastra: V. Selvakumar in his essay 'Beads and Ornaments in Early Tamizh Texts' gives Significant references made in ancient Tamil literatures such as Patirrupattu, Manimekalai etc. which provide representations of a world in which the collection of raw materials and the presence of beadmakers were such features ordinary of the social landscape so as to be recruited towards Sangam Era poetic imagery. The next paper 'Ratnattin Tiruvabharananqal in the Inscriptions of Brihatiswara Temple' by V. Selvakumar emphasizes epigraphic and other records maintained by the patrons and kings who carefully audited the donations of jewels to the Tanjore Brihatiswara temple which has records of donated stone beads including those fashioned from ruby, emerald, lapis lazuli, jasper etc.

There are six papers under the second theme, viz. 'Beads: History, Methodology and Ethnoarchaeology'. The paper on 'Geological Aspects of Raw Materials for Stone Beads' by Ravi Prasad, V.N. Prabhakar and Vikrant Jain reviews the rock cycle for archaeologists, introducing them to phenomenon such as physical and chemical weathering, as well as the measures of susceptibility and extent of weathering of different kinds of rock formations and minerals over a long period of time and space. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer in his paper 'History of Stone Beads and Drilling: South Asia' gives a broad overview of the origin and development of stone bead technologies in prehistory, stressing the origin of pecking and drilling techniques, the developments therein and the crucial Significance of identifying these in the study of beads. The essay on 'Stone Beads of the Indus Tradition: New Perspectives on Harappan Bead Typology, Technology and Documentation' by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer stresses the principles behind designing a classification system and typology, the essential attributes of records on beads and drills, as also what information should be recorded about beads recovered from different associations at the time of excavation. Kuldeep Bhan, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer and Massimo Vidale in their paper 'Living Tradition: Stone Bead Production in Khambhat - An Ethnoarchaeological Approach' present the results of a long-term ethno - archaeological project mapping the organization, division of tasks and specialized roles and supply and production chains of contemporary beadmaking in Khambhat. The paper on Transition in Stone Beadmaking at Khambhat.

**Book's Contents and Sample Pages**

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