First American Bone Bead, 12,940 Years Old, Discovered in Wyoming: New Light on Clovis Culture

4 mins read

Ancient artifacts never fail to captivate, serving as portals to bygone eras, allowing us to glimpse centuries, even millennia, of history. Recently, archaeologists unearthed a remarkable find in Wyoming: a tube-shaped bead estimated to be around 12,940 years old, making it the oldest of its kind in the Western hemisphere.

Measuring a mere 7 millimeters (0.28 inches) in length and 2.9 mm (0.11 inches) in diameter, this bead offers invaluable insights into personal adornment practices within the Clovis culture, which thrived approximately between 11,500 and 10,800 BCE.

First American Bone Bead, 12,940 Years Old, Discovered in Wyoming: New Light on Clovis Culture"
The ends of the bead. (Todd Surovell Photos)

Through meticulous analysis, researchers determined that the bead is crafted from either the metapodial or proximal phalanx bone of a hare, extending the timeline for the utilization of hare bones in decorative artifacts. “While the utilization of hare bone for bead production was prevalent in western North America during the Holocene epoch, its origins can now be traced back to the terminal Pleistocene,” note the researchers in their published findings.

The examination relied on a form of mass spectrometry called ZooMS, which unveils the molecular composition of a substance by instigating a sequence of chemical reactions. In this instance, the researchers extracted measurements from the bone’s collagen protein.

Though there is a possibility that the bone was left behind after the hare was consumed or decomposed, such a scenario appears improbable: the ends exhibit signs of smoothing and polishing, while distinct grooves are etched into the sides. Moreover, the bead was discovered amidst other cultural artifacts, further reinforcing its significance.

In addition to the bone bead, the broader context of the site adds layers of intrigue. It appears to be a campsite centered around the remains of a Columbian mammoth, whether killed or scavenged, with multiple activity areas clustered around hearths. This suggests a prolonged habitation by ancient peoples.

First American Bone Bead, 12,940 Years Old, Discovered in Wyoming: New Light on Clovis Culture
The La Prele Mammoth site in Converse County. (Todd Surovell Photo)

We’re delving into the lives of the earliest inhabitants of this region, millennia ago. Ongoing excavations at this and similar sites aim to shed more light on the daily lives and societal structures of Clovis communities.

Despite its minuscule size, the significance of the bone bead discovery transcends mere ornamentation. It provides valuable insights into hunting practices, social hierarchies, personal adornment customs, and even ancient migration patterns. By comparing similar beads from various locations and time periods, experts can glean a wealth of information.

“We refrain from speculative conjectures regarding the exact significance of bead usage during the Clovis era, but it’s worth noting that beads, along with other personal adornments and cultural embellishments, often serve as signals of identity within societies,” the researchers emphasize.

The research has been published in Scientific Reports.


The ancient idea tries to provide the most accurate information to its readers in all the content it publishes.