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Original Message:   Fake, I'm afraid
Hi Nishedha,

Where did you get this bead? It would be helpful to trace it back a bit. The reason I'm asking is that I bought a very similar bead (attached) three years ago from a farmer in a village south of Jember in East Java. I was trying to find out more about the conditions in which Jatim beads were dug up locally; we know so little about the culture that produced them in the sixth century, and there has been virtually no archaeology done on the sites where they are found.

I bought this bead knowing that it wasn't a genuine Jatim, with perhaps a slight hope that it might be one of the West Asian beads that are occasionally found in Indonesia, but not really expecting very much. Later I wrote to Jamey as follows:

"Lots of delightful people, great food, some fragments of information about burial sites and their contents, a few good beads and plenty of fakes, even in quite remote villages. Among them a couple of examples you might be interested in seeing. I'm really puzzled by the red, white and black bead, because I haven't seen anything like it of any age in that part of the world. It seems to have been fabricated in a Jatim-like way [this was incorrect], but then there is none of the typical elongation of the pattern towards the perforation, so... what is it?"

Jamey wrote back (I hope he won't mind my quoting him) helping to clarify my thoughts -as he always does. He explained that the bead resembled the quite rare Middle Eastern beads that usually have a yellow applied ring at one or both ends:

"the ME beads are wound, trailed, and combed into zigzags. But (and this is so weird and unexpected), the Javanese bead is structured as a Fustat fused-rod bead. Spiraled canes (both S-twist and Z-twist) have been longitudinally applied to the base, and their fusion makes inconsistent zigzags--such as we see in so-called "morfia" beads from Mauritania (but made at Fustat). I don't think I have seen this bead from Java--particularly not in these colors, copying a ME bead."

I think Jamey's description points out how technologically adept and experimental the people who make fake beads in east Java actually are.

Since then, when I've been back there I've kept my eyes open for a similar bead, because, after all, when people make fakes they usually make more than one. But in several trips I have never seen another one - until this bead that you are asking about, which is not the same shape but clearly by the same maker.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I think your previous bead, the one you call "feathered", is also probably a fake. Is it from the same seller?

All the best,

Will

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