Lapis Lazuli: Beadmaking in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Above: Faience beads of different shapes and colors were found in a bead pot at Harappa. Some of these appear to be imitations of the natural stones; deep azure blue lapis lazuli, blue-green turquoise and banded to imitate banded agate.

Lapis lazuli is composed of many minerals, the most important being lazurite, which gives it a distinctive azure color (Schuman, 1977). Its coarse granular crystalline structure does not flake easily and when hammered will shatter irregularly (Schuman, 1977). Large blocks are sawed or incised with chert blades and then snapped with wedges and/or hammer

Beads dating from approximately 6500 BC have been discovered in Neolithic burials at Mehgarh, Pakistan (Jarrige, 1984; 1985; Lechevallier and Quivron, 1985; Samzun, 1984 ms; Vidale, 1991 in press). Other early sites include Rehman Dheri (Durrani, 1984; 1986), Mundigak (Casal, 1961), Shahr-i-Sokhta (Tosi, 1970; Tosi and Piperno, 1973), Tepe Hissar (Bulgarelli, 1979), and numerous ones in Central Asia (Herrman, 1968). All these locations were within trading regions composed of settled agriculturalists and pastoral nomads who had access to lapis lazuli mining areas.