Why do we wear jewellery? I was going to write "women" but realised that men wea r it too these days, and always did in tribal societies. There is a view that words like necklace, ring, chain, earring and bracelet, have associations with slavery and can therefore be seen as a man's way of "buying" a woman (no - I don't subscribe to that view - buy me a gold chain any day you like!) Although you may think this is a farcical idea one only has to look at the way rich men bedeck their women with gold and diamonds to see where the idea arose - although I suppose it is a good way of showing off your wealth on arm candy.I suspect the reasons these days are many and complicated. In Indian society gold is seen as a potent symbol of wealth. I have been to Punjabi weddings in the Midlands, where I taught and the amount of gold worn and given to the bride has been quite staggering. Friends who have worked in The Emirates speak of a similar situation there.But most of us like jewellery and wear bits of it now and again - either expensive stuff or "bling",or even things we have made ourselves, so there must be something innate in us that makes us want to decorate ourselves, be it face paint, tattoos or earrings.
Now The Journal of Archaelogical Science has gone a stage further. For some time there has been evidence that jewellery (often natural objects which have been adapted) was worn in Africa one hundred thousand years ago. They are now saying that they have found evidence that in Europe it was worn as long ago as two hundred thousand years.
What have they found? In the Somme valley and also in Bedfordshire they have found small fossil sponges that look as though they have been modified. Collections of these have been found together suggesting they had been strung as necklaces.
In The Times today (source of this information) it says - keep an open mind as it is not proven. But I can't help being rather pleased that there is a possibility we were beginning to care what we looked like all that long ago. The journal puts it in much more prosaic terms, saying that the use of ornament would indicate "a set of thought processes that might be recognised as human".
I tried to think of anything non-Human that used decoration and could only think of birds like jays, magpies etc., who take shiny objects to their nests - and various birds who really decorate their nests to attract a mate (which could be the reason humans chose to wear jewellery).
While on the subject of birds - when we helped my god-daughter take down her six foot Christmas tree at the week-end we found a beautiful nest crafted from pine needles and grass, sitting in the middle of the tree. I would like to think it was the nest of a crossbill or a redpoll - but by the time we found it the tree was being sawn up and it had been dislodged. Has anybody any ideas?
My bird books do not give pine needles as a nesting material but do speak of small twiglets in the nests of siskins, redpolls etc and I don't suppose a bird would see much difference between a pine needle and a twiglet.