Your path =Home>Beadmaking and Materials Center>Organic Materials> Fossils

Beads From Fossils

Fossils are signs of past life, usually something that has turned to stone, been covered by stone or left an impression in stone.

Just holding a fossil connects you to life long ago, sometimes 20 million, sometimes 200 million or more years ago. I was very excited about fossils when I was young. And they are still exciting to me today.

People have often made beads from fossils. Many have patterns and designs so that people want to keep them. In fact, Some of the oldest beads known, 38,000 years old or so, were made from fossil seashells.

A trilobite, a little animal that ruled the world 500 million years ago, but is now long gone. The Ute Indians (Utah is named after them) found many on their land. They weren't sure what they were. They called them "little water bug in a stone house" and "lizard foot bead things." But they believed the trilobites could make a sick person well and even stop bullets. They drilled holes into them and wore them around their necks on strings.

Above, a Trilobite fossil.
Note the three lobes of its body, from which it gets its name.

With some fossils you don't have to put a hole into them. These beads are made from fossil sea urchins. In life, sea urchins have many spines, something like a water porcupine. After they die, the spines fall off, but tiny holes for the spines remain. Fossil urchins are often found with a large natural hole running through them, top to bottom. My fossil urchins are from Iran, but people in Europe and Africa also used them for beads.

Above, fossil sea urchins.
Note lines of radiating dots, where spines were attached.

Another common fossil bead is made from crinoid stems. Crinoids look like flowers and are called "sea lilies" but they are really animals. Their long stems are made up of many small discs, each with a hole through the middle. Where people find a lot of crinoid fossils, they string stem sections into beads. Crinoid stem pieces are made into beads in many parts of the world.

Crinoid stem pieces make natural beads. Three have been commercially dyed.


Small Bead Businesses | Beading & Beadwork | Ancient Beads | Trade Beads
Beadmaking & Materials | Bead Uses | Researching Beads | Beads and People
Center for Bead Research | Book Store | Free Store | Bead Bazaar
Shopping Mall | The Bead Auction | Galleries | People | Events
The Bead Site Home | Chat Line | Contact Us | Site Search Engine | FAQ