search
Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

archaeology
subscribe
Special Introductory Offer!

Analysis Reveals Imitation Amber in Prehistoric Graves

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

fake amber beadsSEVILLE, SPAIN—Carlos Odriozola of the University of Seville and his colleagues analyzed six beads recovered from prehistoric high-status graves—two found in a 5,000-year-old cave tomb known as La Molina in southern Spain, and four 4,000-year-old beads recovered from a burial in Cova del Gegant, which is located near Spain’s northeastern coast. Cosmos reports that the beads all appeared to be carved from amber, but none of them were actually made of the prized ancient tree sap. The beads from Cova del Gegant were made of pine resin layered over mollusk shell, while the beads from La Molina were made of tree resin layered over seeds. Their reddish color may have resulted from exposure to cinnabar, another prized material, Odriozola explained. He and his colleagues speculate that real amber beads may have been difficult to acquire, even for high-status individuals such as those buried in these two tombs, or these individuals may not have been as wealthy as once thought, and settled for lower cost, look-alike jewelry. A third possibility, according to the researchers, is that the fake amber beads were peddled by unscrupulous traders. Chemical analysis of other supposedly ancient amber artifacts could reveal additional counterfeits, they said. To read about another recent discovery in Iberia, go to "Spain's Silver Boom."

Advertisement

Advertisement


Advertisement