Friday, 22 July 2011

DID YOU KNOW? ~ Facts from "A String of Beads" By: Margarette S. Reid

Would it surprise you to learn that the word "bead" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "bede" (which means "prayer"), or that each shape and type of bead has a name and a history?

At the back of this picture book, (which is both a story about a girl and her grandmother as well as an  informational volume), are three pages jammed packed with interesting information about "BEADS." These include:

* Beads probably were first made at about the same time in different places around the world.  The oldest ones discovered so far were found in France.  They were made from animal teeth and bones about forty thousand years ago.

* Beads from kangaroo bones have been discovered in Australia.

* In caves in Korea, people have found very old beads made from deer toe bones.

* Disk-shaped beads made from fossil dinosaur and ostrich eggshells were found in the Gobi dessert in Asia.

* Bones from fish and snakes have natural holes that make them easy to string.  Many early peoples used them as beads.

* We know beads were important to people who lived long ago because we find beads in their graves.  In South America, strings of tiny lizard-egg beads were found along with gold jewelry in clay pots.

* A wall painting in an Egyptian tomb shows craftsmen making, drilling, and stringing beads.  Everyone, including pets, wore beads in Egypt.  They thought beads brought them luck.  Sha means "luck" in Egyptian, and shasha is the Egyptian word for bead.

* As early people moved around to find food, they carried beads with them.  Wherever they went, they picked up new ideas about how to make and use beads.

* For thousands of years, up to the present day, people in many countries used a calculator made of beads to keep track of what they bought and sold.  It is called an abacus.  Abacus beads are usually made of wood.

* The English word bead comes from the Anglo-Saxon bede, meaning "prayer." Prayer beads are used by Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. Although the beads are different, their purpose is the same: to guide worshipers through daily prayers.

* Around the time of Columbus, in the city of Venice, Italy, craftsmen made wonderful glass beads. To keep their methods secret, all Venetian bead makers had to live and work on one island. Although the craftsmen were threatened with death if they tried to leave that island, the secret was impossible to keep. Other centers sprang up to supply the growing demand for beads.

* Animals such as elephants and walruses that once provided ivory from their tusks are now protected. The tagua nut is an ivory look-alike that can be used for beads. It grows in the rain forests of Ecuador in South America.

* Ever since the first pearl was found inside an oyster, people have prized pearl beads.  But until two hundred years ago, people didn't know how they were formed.  Some people thought that oysters swallowed raindrops.  Now we know that when a grain of sand gets inside an oyster's shell, the oyster coats it with layers of smooth, lustrous material called nacre.  Behold -- a pearl!

* Myth and mystery have grown up around certain beads.  In Qom, Iran, people hang large, turquoise-colored beads around their donkeys' necks to protect them.  Eye beads and face beads are believed to have the power to protect their wearers from evil.  Those who wear Bodom beads -- beads that are usually yellow with black or dark-gray inner cores -- expect the beads to bark to warn them of danger!

* Native American women who were skilled at embroidering clothing with porcupine quills eagerly traded furs for bright-colored seed beads.  The explorers Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals that they must be careful to keep enough beads in reserve to trade for food supplies on their return trip.

* Japanese artists carve delicate bead sculptures of fruit, flowers, butterflies, and even dragons from a smooth, hard stone called jade -- and also from peach stones!

* Today in Africa, as in the past, village craftsmen specialize in making beads from the materials they find around them.  The Dogan of Mali make granite beads.  In Mauritania, glass is recyled by crushing bottles to make beads that have a soft, grainy look.  The Turkana people make aluminum beads, sometimes by melting down cooking pots and pans.  In Kenya, it is the custom for a woman who is waiting for her baby to be born to wear an amulet made from large, shiny brown beans.  In Malawi, bright red and black beans make beautiful beads.  They look delicious, but they are poisonous, so don't eat them!

* You can make beads from ordinary things around you -- seeds, shells, acorn caps, paper straws, pasta, even buttons -- just about anything you can string.

* All over the world, for as long as we can remember, people have loved beads and treasured them.


In the biographical facts, on the dust jacket, about author, Margarette S. Reid, we are told she has been "fascinated with beads from childhood (when she wore them playing dress-up).  Reid still treasures 'old' family necklaces, such as carved sandlewood beads brought from India by her missionary aunt or crystal beads that looked sparkly as diamonds to her.  As a Camp Fire Girl, Margarette worked hard to earn wooden honour beads. When she wrote a letter to Child Life about one project worth eleven beads, and the magazine published it, she knew she wanted to become a writer.  She also became a secondary and elementary-school teacher, and a mother and grandmother.  She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and is also the author of The Button Box.

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