Decorated Carnelian Beads from the Indus Civilization Site of Dholavira (Great Rann of Kachchha, Gujarat)

A detailed review of the carnelian beads found in Dholavira, among the most striking of all ancient Indus manufactured goods. Prabhakar writes: "The Harappans embellished various categories of beads and among them, the types known as ‘long barrel cylindrical beads’ (also known as long carnelian beads and long bicone beads) and decorated (etched / bleached) carnelian beads, are the most important ones, in terms of indication of social hierarchy, technological markers and items of long distance trade. They are also important due to their uniqueness, lustre, colour and decoration, the last, particularly of the so- called ‘etched’ beads" (p. 475). Prabharkar goes on to describe what might be meant with the word "etching," how this might be the misuse of a term given the fact that we are finding these beads after they have spent a few thousand years underground when chemical processes continue. Words like "bleached" or "decorated" are more accurate; in any case, the effort to work carnelian beads in this way is complicated and point to the virtuosities of Indus craftspeople and the demand for the "eye" design that often resulted from these efforts, a design with variations that has wide currency in Western Asia as well.

Well-illustrated (the beads are gorgeous), with maps of find locations at Dholavira and another valuable essay available online from the book Walking with the Unicorn.

Above: Dholavira: a) Single-eyed decorated carnelian bead; b) Double-eyed decorated carnelian bead; c) Multiple double-eyed decorated carnelian bead; d) Triple-eyed decorated carnelian bead (photographs by Randall Law and the author, courtesy Archaeological Survey of India)