Abbey Museum Jewellery

How Ornaments Make us Human

On Saturday 4th August Dr Michelle Langley entertained thirty Museum Friends and their guests with her fascinating presentation on jewellery – “bling” – over the millennia. Dr Langley is the DECRA (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award) Research Fellow at Griffith University; her special area of study is Sulawesi, Timor-Leste and Australia.

Dr Langley’s illustrated presentation described how humans have used personal ornamentation as far back as Neanderthal times and how this could be shown as a manner of differentiating humans from animals. She explained how cave paintings depicted people with various types of ornamentation and how this archaeological evidence provides insights into how some of these ornaments were made.

Abbey Museum Friends at the Presentation on Bling

Abbey Museum Friends Enjoy the Presentation by Dr Michelle Langley

In addition to the pictorial evidence there is a wealth of recently discovered archaeological evidence of ornamentation found in burials and sites of early human occupation, especially in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Australia. Analysis of these recent discoveries is showing that the belief in the capacity of our ancestors for language, art, complex technologies and social behaviour only developed after they reached Europe approximately 40,000 years ago is incorrect. There is evidence of a rich and complex cultural society of the first modern humans in the region many centuries previously.

Dr Langley’s presentation led to a lively discussion of the types of personal adornment and the locations at which they have been found in the region.

Jewellery in the Abbey Museum collection

Jewellery in the Abbey Museum collection