Jewelry in its most basic form has been used since the dawn of of man, in conjunction with his earliest use of clothing and tools. Until recently, researchers had believed that the ability to use symbolism did not develop until humans had migrated to the continent of Europe some 35,000 to 40,000 years ago.Recently discovered mollusk or nassarius kraussianus shells that had been perforated to be strung into beads (photo above, left) are now thought to be some of the oldest known man-made jewelry. This mollusk jewelry was discovered in a cave in Blombos, South Africa, and dates back to the Middle Stone Age 75,000 to 100,000 years ago.
The first jewelry was made from readily available natural materials including animal teeth, bone, various types of shells, carved stone and wood. It is believed that jewelry started out as a functional item used to fasten articles of clothing together, and was later adapted for use as an object for purely aesthetic ornamentation, or for use as a spiritual and religious symbol.As mankind progressed, jewelry was used as a symbol of wealth and status, as well as to protect against harm, ward of evil, and heal ailments. Jewelry was used by early man to adorn nearly every part of the human body, and has been made out of almost every natural material known to mankind.
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