Colours All Around

I’ve been wondering about the prevalence of colors in different parts of Southeast Asia.  We can talk a lot about what colors are prevalent in what areas based on what we find, but we don’t talk much at all about why those colors are prevalent.  For example, turquoise and reddish-brown are easily the most common colors at any given site in Asia.  I don’t think I’ve found any site that has a different dominant color.  But why?  Why are they so prevalent, and why are turquoise and reddish-brown so popular in so many places?  Yellow beads area also way more prevalent in certain areas than others, and I have to wonder what it is about yellow beads that makes them more popular in one area over another.  Is it just a fashion?  Is there some other meaning to it?  Is it just the availability of certain colors of beads (i.e. reddish brown and turquoise are just more easily available or easier to make or maybe the cheapest?).

And here’s another question: can we ever really know why one color is more prevalent than others?  I suppose that could be why we don’t really talk about that question too much.  It’s very, very, very difficult (if not impossible) to figure out why one color is more common than others.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the question and engage with that question.  Otherwise I feel like we tend to forget things like human choice and preference and the mind-set of those using these beads.

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About Heather Christie

Heather is an archaeologist, photographer, and writer whose research focuses on beads and bead trade, particularly in a maritime sense. She's currently working working on a PhD in Digital Design (focusing on heritage visualisation) at the Glasgow School of Art.
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