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New Article: New Insights into Use-Wear Development in Bodily Ornaments Through the Study of Ethnographic Collections

This article recently appeared in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory and is the result of a collaboration between Catarina Guzzo Falci, Jacques Cuisin, André Delpuech, Annelou van Gijn, and Corinne L. Hofman. Read the abstract below!


The use of microwear analysis has made substantial contributions to the study of archaeological bodily ornaments. However, limitations persist with regard to the interpretation of use and the reconstruction of systems of attachment, hampering a holistic understanding of the diversity of past bodily adornment. This is because the complexities of ornament biographies and the resulting wear traces cannot be grasped exclusively from the study of experimental reference collections. In this paper, we propose to bridge this gap in interpretation by systematically researching ethnographic collections. We conducted a microscopic study of 38 composite ornaments from lowland South America housed at the Musée du quai Branly (Paris). These objects involve organic, biomineral, and inorganic components, attached through different string configurations. The combined use of optical and 3D digital microscopy at different magnification ranges provided a thorough understanding of wear trace formation, distribution, and characterization. We demonstrate how individual beads develop characteristic use-wear in relation to one another and to the strings. We further challenge common assumptions made in the analysis of archaeological ornaments. In sum, this research addresses methodological and interpretative issues in the study of bodily adornment at large, by providing insight into the biographies of objects that were actually worn in a lived context. In the future, our results can be applied as reference for a more effective understanding of the use of ornaments worldwide.

The article is available online here

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