Shell Bracelets and Pendants

New Stone Age

Cagayan, Palawan, and Sorsogon
4854 BC

In the early days, shells were fashioned into tools, as well as ornaments. The oldest known ornaments made from cone shells were found in the early 1960ís in the grave of an adult male in Duyong Cave in Palawan. A shell disk with a hole in the center was found next to his right ear and a disk with a hole by the edge was found on his chest. The shell ornaments were dated 4854 B.C.

Other personal ornaments such as earrings, anklets, bracelets and beads recovered from grave sites were found together with spoons, dippers and other tools fashioned from shells. Shell beads recovered from other sites were made from cowry, whelk, and conch shells. Shell beads were also recovered from Arku Cave in Cagayan, Ngipeít Duldug Cave in Palawan and in Bato Caves, in Sorsogon; a shell bracelet was also found in Bato Caves.

The shells of giant clams were fashioned into large spherical beads with holes drilled end to end at the center while pendants for the ear were ground from cone shells. Perforations were drilled at the center of the disk. Bracelets and anklets were both made from giant clams and cone shells. Shell bracelets made from the top shoulder of the body whorls of cone shells (Conus litteratus) are characteristic of the Late Neolithic Age. The natural spiral found along the shoulders of the shell serves as a decorative motif. Shell bracelets were recovered in Duyong Cave and Leta-Leta Cave in Palawan.

Up to the Metal Age, shells were the major material for the manufacture of both tools and ornaments but shell technology attained its highest development during the Neolithic Period.

At present, the people of Palawan living near Tabon Caves still fashion bracelets from shells. The boring and polishing of the shell ornaments is done with stone tools.

This page was last modified Monday, February 10, 2014
National Museum of the Philippines
Padre Burgos Drive, City of Manila, Philippines