Research Article: Amber imitation? Two unusual cases of Pinus resin-coated beads in Iberian Late Prehistory (3rd and 2nd millennia BC)

Date Published: May 3, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Carlos P. Odriozola, José Ángel Garrido Cordero, Joan Daura, Montserrat Sanz, José María Martínez-Blanes, Miguel Ángel Avilés, Peter F. Biehl.


A group of beads from the artificial cave of La Molina (Lora de Estepa, Sevilla) and Cova del Gegant (Sitges, Barcelona) were made from a biogenic raw material and intentionally covered by a layer of resin. This is the first time this type of treatment has been documented on elements of adornment in the Late Prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula. The composition and nature of the coatings are analysed and the symbolic role of such alterations and imitations of prehistoric adornments is discussed.

Partial Text

Since the Upper Palaeolithic, the unique translucent reddish-yellow colour of amber has made this resinite sought after for personal ornamentation, e.g. beads, pendants, charms… [1], conferring on an important symbolic value in European Prehistory. The allure and rarity of amber triggered the exchange and use of this resinite, but also the development of imitations by the use of other local translucent minerals [2] or the application of coatings, as described by this paper, to reproduce the colour of amber.

Administrative permits to study La Molina beads were granted to Carlos P. Odriozola and José Ángel Garrido Cordero by the Junta de Andalucía Delegación territorial de Educación Cultura y Deporte, Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla (DCI/ES/2014/19). The ID numbers in Table 1 are those used by the Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla (Sevilla, Spain) to label the material. Archaeological excavations and beads sampling from Cova del Gegant are approved by the project “Els canvis climàtics durant el plistocè superior a la costa central catalana i l’impacte en les poblacions neandertals i humans anatòmicament moderns” (CLT009/18/00022, Generalitat de Catalunya). The ID numbers for Cova del Gegant materials in Table 1 are those given by the site inventory number. These materials are housed at the University of Barcelona.

The use of beads covered by tree resin has been documented for the first time at the artificial cave of La Molina (Lora de Estepa, Sevilla) and Cova del Gegant (Sitges, Barcelona), dated in the third and second millennia BC respectively.




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