Manufacturing of neolithic Beads

General Remark:

This description doesn't lift up any claim of completeness, it should be seen only as a hypothetical dissertation in accordance with the materials being with me. Furthermore this contribution could support and fix own experiences and observations and giving perhaps some thinking impulses.

Corrections and additions are reserved!


Still until today the millenniums old love of the people to beautiful beads is unbroken. I have tried to catch this fascination on an approximately

4000 years old agate bead from Afghanistan.

Therefore it is understandable that to all times people have produced beautiful beads with large effort and time expenditure.

This contribution shall point out the effort and work of the old masters of these gems, which were able to produce these beautiful beads with simplest tools.


to produce beads. The tools shown are securely not complete. Additional mallets made of wood or bone, settings for drills, pecking tools and quartz sand, sinews together with greases to string the unpolished beads to each other and much more tools were used.

View of the front and rear side of a bead grinding stone made of reddish brown sandstone. All grinding stones well-known to me have a size, one can hold tight with the hand.

Measurements: 97x36 mm, Weight: 343 g

Drills and/or pecking tool group made of hard Chalcedon (Silex, Agate, Carnelian).

These tools were used either direct or with a setting from wood or bone. That they were used for pecking the bead holes, you can recognize at the dulled tool points and the bead holes. That striking power on the drills were carried out, directly or indirectly, you can partly recognize chipping at the ends of the drill heads.

Detail view of different drills/pecking tools, made of hard Chalcedon
The Bead


The production of neolithic stone beads from the group of hard Chalcedonia as Carnelian, Jasper, Silex, Agate and others, required long experience and skill with the peculiarities of these materials.

Basic requirement for the production of a stone bead was:

It might only be used unobjectionable, homogeneous material, without micro cracks and/or fossil inclusions and/or other material changements.

At this time it was surely not easy, but with good lighting conditions and a striking check, an experienced craftsman already could pre-select the material quite well.

Group of preform beads made of Carnelian. The raw beads are coarsely worked and are ready to be provided with the drillings now. In this case the pecking work was used.


ca. 19x15 mm

Pre-pecked preform beads.

The pecking work was executed from both sides, the break through isn't finished at these preform beads yet.

View A

Pre-pecked preform beads

within various processing phases. These preform beads are refused, because at the processing uncontrolled chipping (splintering) appeared, the material had microcracks or was not homogeneous.

View B

Pre-pecked preform beads

Interesting is the preform bead above on the right, centrically this one shows the first pecking stroke, the bright point in the middle.

Detail picture of a pre-pecked preform bead.
Preform beads showing various production phases.

The retouched surfaces to reduce the single bead to the approximate size can be recognized well.

Various views of a preform bead with finished drilling.

Before one started with the grinding process, the exceeding material was taken down as far as possible by edge chipping. In this processing phase the front faces were already pre-polished.

Different, almost ready preform beads. At these still the fine retouching tracks are recognizable.
After all hard work, the final product!



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