Ancient Hohokam Shell Jewelry

When you look at this, what do you see? The most obvious answer is a shell, but it is more than thatโ€”it is ancient jewelry!

It is likely this once belonged to a member of the Hohokam culture. Skilled craftsmen, the Hohokam were known for their many material accomplishments, including their shell ornaments. Trade is old as civilization itself, and was quite sophisticated in their timeโ€”It is likely this piece was imported from the Gulf Of California.

After coming into their possession, Hohokam artisans would fashion shells into different types of jewelry such as rings, bracelets, pendants, and more. Although this shell has no designs engraved onto it, they were known to use acidic solutions, made from fermented juices of the saguaro, on these shells to do just that. Similar to what’s featured here, holes of different sizes would be fashioned through the shells ranging from small (like this), to large, depending on what they were crafting. In this example, the hole is just wide enough to fit string (made from the agave plant) through the openingโ€”making it into a fashionable necklace or bracelet.

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