Cultural diffusion vs. parallel evolution
Re: Re: Panini—and My Ideas -- Beadman Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Post Reply
12/04/2019, 17:57:01

What I was wondering about - has anyone made an argument for the parallel evolution of bead designs vs. cultural diffusion? These are the two options normally discussed by anthropologists when the same design, technology, etc. is found in two different places.

Some design elements appear to be "universal" and found in many cultures worldwide. It seems that there are simple elements, like a circle with a dot in the center, that could reasonably arise in different places without any contact between the cultures. I've often wondered if this could be the same for more complex designs. In my own experience - I used to create pages of elaborate doodles of curved shapes when I was a teenager. Occasionally I have been surprised to find abstract art that contains the exact same figures. I'm fairly certain the artist did not have access to my doodles, nor I to theirs. My conclusion is that there are a finite number of curved shapes for an artist to explore and some will spontaneously appear in different works. For beads, I wonder if the dragged trails could fall into this category - sort of an obvious thing to do when playing with stripes on a glass bead.

The other option is cultural diffusion, or the adoption of something created by one culture by another. It's a compelling hypothesis that would be strengthened by historical evidence of contact between the Venetian glass bead artists and Middle Eastern artists and/or their beads. Although if we do a thought experiment - how long would it take for a glass bead maker to create designs with dots, lines, spirals, etc. on their own, having never before seen a bead from another culture? My guess is not long. In contrast, for a design as complex as the watermelon seed millefiori, the cultural diffusion theory seems pretty strong.

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