Early Necklace…

by forrest fenn

Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian.Β 



basketThis may be the first necklace in North America, or at least one of the first. It was made by a Basketmaker I Indian whose people lived in the Southwest about 1200 BC. Their name came from the large number of baskets that were found in their dwellings, mostly caves and rock shelters. They didn’t learn to make pottery until much later. Can you believe these people were wearing turquoise jewelry 2,500 years before they acquired the bow and arrow?


In the summer they ran around mostly aur paur but when the temperature got low they wore clothing made from hides and vegetal materials. It’s not that they were frugal life-style enthusiasts because hard was all they knew. The odds of a baby living the first year were one in ten.


I found this necklace on a friend’s ranch in Arizona. The turquoise came from the Tiffany Mine in New Mexico, near San Lazaro Pueblo, and the cordage was made from a chewed yucca leaf. Notice that the pendants were tied on instead of strung, which allowed them to lay flat and show off their beauty. No matter how tough life was for primitive cultures around the world there was always time for religion and jewelry.



71 thoughts on “Early Necklace…

  1. Stunning. Not unlike the fake necklaces popular now, but so much more beautiful because it’s real (not to mention ancient.)

    Don’t you wonder if there was a symbolism behind the number of pendants? Status, wealth, number of children. Or maybe they just liked symmetry.

  2. Amazing how humans evolve and adapt…mostly by accident, but art is innate.
    Magnificent piece of ancient history. There is so much to be learned…too many unwritten books.
    Thank you for sharing Forrest, beautiful.

  3. Thank you for sharing with us from your collection of stories and ancient jewelry Forrest. Apparently, jewelry enhanced form with ancient peoples who embraced beauty in the midst of daily chores. It’s the same with me 3200+ years later.

  4. Always classy f. Thanks for another history lesson. I learned something new today.

    Thanks for the chase as well.

    • I have read that some cultures used bow drills and sand as the cutting agent. Time consuming but rewarding.

  5. Wonder what happened to the person that wore it. I am sure it is an interesting story of why it was made that we will never know. Was it made by a young brave hoping to when the heart of someone he loved? Was it made by a loving mother as a gift to her daughter? Stories that have been lost to us.

  6. Jewelry seems to go back to the dawn of mankind … it must have a genetic component. Even some animals seem to have it. Always curious about that impulse and what preservative power it had? Why is it so durable?

  7. Somebody send me a yucca leaf! I want to see how long I have to chew to replicate that cordage. πŸ™‚ Can’t even imagine.

    • Many people here have Yucca plants in their front yard. I am standing staring at this leaf in awe that anyone would try and chew it. I would think that you might try to mash it up first, as the edges can get very jagged and sharp.

      She must have been one tough lady to chew on that big ole leaf. Also, if anyone knows the New Mexico landscape, you know the last thing you want to be is ‘au naturale’ out here. Everything has some part growing from it that can stab you, and the ground is covered in razor sharp barbs. It is no wonder that only 1 in 10 would make it.

      • Intheknow, I’ll bet she had buck teeth from all the pulling and chewing. (no joking, the na women pulled hides with their teeth which sometimes resulted in buck teeth)

        • Maybe buck teeth was a sign that a girl would make a good wife. Remember 75 years ago when young girls were taught to crochet lace onto pillowcases to show what good, industrious, tame, talented wives they would make? I still have some of my grandma’s pillowcases.

          • Old Shadows, I have some of my great grandmothers “tatting” edged pillowcases (a Scandinavian form of lace). I enjoy handiwork, but would not enjoy being “tame chattel.” I’m too independent to go back in time that direction. A simpler, genteel life is appealing but not if it means giving up independence. 120 yrs. ago I would have been considered simply property of my husband – trust me, it would have been anything but simple for him! lol

          • When I was a teenager, I lived with my grandmother to help her take care of her farm. I remember at night, I would sit in my great-grandfathers rocking chair reading and my grandmother would sit in her chair and crochet. I have several of her afghans.

      • What is the name of the ground cover that has razor sharp barbs? I grew up going barefoot in the summers, would not want to do that where you are.

        • Here in Santa Fe, they’re called Goat Heads. They can put a hole in your mountain bike tire, let alone your foot.

          • Thanks Melanie. I am not familiar with that type of vegetation. Where I live, we have what is called a sand bur….not very big, but smarts when you step on one.

          • Hey Michael, that western icon The Tumbleweed, is also a recent import…I believe from the Asian steppes.

  8. You said something about the center sir.

    Main Entry: vegetal pole
    Function: noun
    Date: 1896
    : the point on the surface of an egg that is diametrically opposite to the animal pole and usually marks the center of the protoplasm containing more yolk β€” see blastula illustration

  9. They make soap with yucca leaves, dont think it would be an enjoyable endeavour. lol

    Thank you Forrest, may have to drag out some of my turquoise and get used to the weight of it on my neck. Interesting how little the styles have changed.

  10. Thanks, Forrest. It is interesting to see that human nature has always leaned toward Symmetry. That’s an amazing find! Now if I can just remember not to covet that which is my “neighbor’s”. πŸ™‚

    • JC1117, You have a keen eye. Symmetry imo is important in f’s poem as well.

      I’m fairly content with my place and blessings in life, but have learned to enjoy ancient treasures and beautiful artwork through books and the internet. Can’t afford to own the quality I enjoy, so lots of books, and jewlery knock-offs.

      • That was wonderful JC –

        Thanks so much for posting it. I have been a wolf advocate for years – following some of the packs in Yellowstone. I had no idea they could change the course of a river – for the better. Amazing.

  11. Thank you for sharing Mr. Fenn. Your descriptions are warm and caring, unlike anything I experienced in college.

  12. Forrest, I am not familiar with the term “aur paur”.

    The most I was able to research it came up with- a nanny or a governess.
    I get the feeling that was not the sense you used it.
    Can you help enlighten those of us who don’t know? Thanks! πŸ™‚

  13. Thanks Mr. Fenn for an informative and interesting little story…I believe I understand a little more than I did…It very well could have adorned the neck of a favorite wife or daughter…

    The sophistication of the ancient peoples to create stone drills to make the tiniest of holes in soft stones and/or shells for beads and amulets by hand is fascinating…Their abilities to utilize their natural surroundings and materials is unmatched by today’s society without the use of sophisticated machinery to achieve similar results…Even their use of fine sands and water for polishing items rivals today’s finest efforts by professionals with various fine minerals and precision equipment…

    The pictured necklace appears aesthetically pleasing to the eye because for some reason humans find that an odd number of elements in an arrangement create better balance and symmetry artistically speaking…Maybe the number 5 held a religious or spiritual significance as well to the maker/wearer…

    With a little digging online I also found that the words “aur paur” used in the story do have an English translation, though not at all as suggested by the usage in the sentence of the story…To me the term “au naturel” would have been more appropriate for the connotation implied, “au naturel” meaning “an uncovered or natural state”…

    I found that in the Romansh language of certain European countries the word “aur” translates to English as ‘gold’ and the word “paur” translates from the Bavarian to the word ‘farmer’…So it seems the term “aur paur” can also be taken to mean …’gold farmer’…An unusual and intriguing occurrence if I do say so…

    • Samsmith,

      It still seems we utilize the understanding of nature today. Look where Velcro came from.

      • I agree with that GG…But how recent is the invention of Velcro?…The cockle-burr as natural flora has been around for eons as far as we know until one man only recently in our past recognized the value of it’s properties as a hook and latch fastener…

        It is staggering to me the amount of ancient knowledge and techniques of utilizing nature(true treasure) that has simply been lost to time and divergence of culture, war(murder), disease, and natural disasters on this ol’ orb…


        • Samsmith,

          My point exactly. What would we learn if we focused on not what we already have uncovered over time, but what still awaits us to be discovered. I tried to use Velcro as an example of past versus future, but trying to keep it primitive.

  14. Thank you Forrest for sharing this wonder story and photo.
    As I looked it the necklace I could not help but wonder if you found it in it’s present condition. If so how was it preserved? Was it found in a pottery jar, under a rock?
    Umm 1200 bc, interesting. πŸ™‚

    • My research says that Native North American Indians were mining there as early as 900 AD. Around 1300 AD it was take over for a profitable enterprise.

      Is everyone going to start thinking “BC” is a hint? Good Luck! πŸ™‚

    • I was thinking the same thing Chad, this necklace is over 3000 years old and the chewed Yucca plant is still holding up. Amazing.

  15. Wow, the Tiffany Mine was in existence in 1200BC? Who’d a thunk it? Only Forrest. Good one, f.

  16. AWESOME, when you look at the close-up of the knot , the maker was smart enough to hitch the loop so that the stone stayed on. I wonder how many years the maker wore it and what they were doing, hunting, fishing, makin’ babies, as this necklace swung from their neck. And how many others wore it before it rested on the earth until Forrest found it. Very cool.

  17. I plug my ears nowadays to avoid listening to the whispers. I don’t think my fingers will work to stop the whispers and I’m scared. This is no whisper, but only intended for one. Five beads, yes. B.C.? Yeah, sure, ok. Back then, there must have been a lot less prayers to recite. Rosary beads are many more per “necklace” presently. IMO, MM would love the item not talked about which resides in the chest. Five beads strung together. I’m not surprised. My focus is sharp, IMO. Let’s see, what am I doing on Monday. Maybe I will say a particular prayer and reach for the third bead… because it is in the middle. IMO, I’m sharp, but you might miss my point. I am missing your point, where did it go? Is it a phantom? When I write like this, I have to ask… is there a Dr. in the house?

  18. In all their exploration, learning and survival itself, what encouraged religion in paleo man? I suppose the jewelry may stem from this, but I am so curious of each little detail in their evolution, particularly their thought processes vs instinct. Such wonder…and we think life today is hard! πŸ™‚

    • As a rock/gem/mineral enthusiast, I have modern machinery for such cutting and drilling, etc. And it is no easy task, not to mention requires artistic ability..
      I am amazed with their innovative thought and capabilities.
      And forrest, with the agate marbles between the knees in Mrs. For d’s class. Agate is HARD!

      • I would bet safety glasses were the early brainchild of flint knappers…especially with obsidian. It can break and fly….and the edges are sharper than any man made surface. So thin it can slice you and you don’t even feel it!

      • Jdiggins, ff must have been in quite a conundrum quickly trying to grind agates into marbles with corundum. But it will do the job since its second hardest to diamonds on Moes scale.

        • Corundum 10, agate 7, feels like 9, obsidian 7, cuts like butter ..
          forrest may have knobby knees depending how long this profession lasted! πŸ™‚

  19. 2 polar north then south e St. I stake my clam the golden title whole scope of life crawled in lone 1/2 mile arrested it Arapaho uther ncients kno

  20. This is beautiful. I love the color of the turquoise and the shape of the stones reminds me of corn kernels. The condition is amazing!

  21. I fell in love with Turquoise when I was ten and by the time I went in the Air Force 8.5 years later I had a drawer full of raw unpolished rocks along with sterling silver and turquoise rings, necklaces, wristbands, watch bands, belt buckles and bolo ties. I would love to haggle over the purchase of a certain well-worn Belt Buckle and Mesa Verde Wrist Band for my future Hartliep Galleries of Engraved, Indigenous and Native American Art ..


  22. Forrest:

    I have always wondered, but never looked for the answer:

    Are the Tohono and Akimel O’odham (formerly Papago and Pima, which are believed descended from the Hohokam and (now also) descended from the Sobaipuri, of the San Pedro River Valley, who moved onto Mission San Xavier and interbred with them) – are they (cultural or archaeological evidence-wise) directly descended from the Basketmaker Culture? or did they pick up the artistry of basket weaving through trade with the Basketmakers? or later cultures? ..


  23. Amazing necklace !! I could only imagine what it would be like to hold such an incredible piece of ancient history……. oh the stories it could tell…. simply amazing !!!!!! Until next time.. see ya

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