As a species, we love to adorn ourselves with jewelry, makeup, hair accessories. We do it now to enhance our looks, to attract a mate and because it just makes us feel good about ourselves. Some forms of adornment are symbolic – like wedding rings. Or they’re used to make a statement about our lifestyle, like multiple piercings and earrings.
Have you ever wondered what the origins are of such self-decoration? Was there a meaning behind it? Or did we just start wearing beads, necklaces and earrings as our awareness of self increased and as we evolved?
We know that the earliest jewelry of bits of bones, shells and other personal adornments appeared in graves about 40,000 years ago. The idea that there was an afterlife, and the belief in spirits both good and bad, gave rise to the means to attract the good spirits and ward off the bad ones.
People protected themselves from evil spirits with adornments in the form of necklaces or bracelets, and pierced themselves with the same bones and shells to have these amulets on their persons at all times. At this time people also started painting their bodies with red ochre, which can be considered the earliest form of makeup. They also started lining their eyes with kohl to protect themselves against the force known as the “Evil Eye.”
Even today, much jewelry takes the form of amulets. People wear crosses around their necks, or the Star of David, or wear a claddagh ring – all to attract good fortune or ward off bad luck. There are even more throwbacks to this earliest form of magic, such as a lucky rabbit’s foot, or a lucky penny. Or we often have less well known, more personal amulets that have a meaning to us alone, but are still worn as good luck charms and amulets.