Most compelling of the objects was the double shell bracelet fused together by matrix and human bone (Figure 1). Specimens often have caliche or calcium carbonate encrustation. Similar examples have been found in Ban Chiang sites. Bone segments (usually the long bones of the wrists or lower legs) can be radiocarbon dated and ones from Ban Chiang have been found to date to 1300 B.C.E. to 560 B.C.E. The bracelets in the Ban Chiang examples were described as being Trochus sp. shell but this is highly unlikely. More likely would be the chank shell Turbinella pyrum which is has been fished from waters from the Bay of Bengal along coastal India for centuries2. These bracelets also have the circumference of chank shell bracelets from Ladakh and Tibet. Wrist bones bearing as many as twenty or thirty bracelets have been found and it appears that they were worn by both men and women. This determination was made from the fact that the male bones were more dense and larger in circumference than the female bones.
Also in the collection were 2″ to 2-1/4″ round, shell spires: discs with the center pierced and the spiral design of the shell forming the slight dome, most closely resembling the conus shell discs popular from Africa (Figure 2). A large shell bracelet measuring 4-5/8″ round and the caps were similarly encrusted with caliche and still have matrix embedded in their inside.(Figure 3). The bracelet has several exposed pearlescent areas which leave one to suspect an oyster species shell, as chank shells do not have mother of pearl composition. I have found no definitive information on the use of the smaller domed shells, but they could have been strung and worn as earrings.
One final piece de resistance is a bronze earring (ear plug), bearing an overall green patina and matrix (Figure 4). I have no additional information as of yet concerning this item and welcome any comments.
Always a puzzle and a mystery but always intriguing for the story held within.
1Ban Chiang: Art and Prehistory of Northeast Thailand. Labbe, Armand J. pg. 3,77-82.
2Jamey D. Allen article in The Bead Museum Quarterly June 2003, Vol. 13, No. 2