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With their warm colors and striking natural inclusions, its hardly surprising that African Wood Beads were once a coveted format of currency among the indigenous tribes of Africa. The exchange of wooden beads for goods can be traced back to the Neolithic era in 10000 B.C when humans pioneered crop cultivation, and began to farm land for both self sufficiency and profit. According to historian Lois Dubin, wooden beads were also prized among the Neolithic Egyptians, with many burying great hoards alongside their dead believing that money would aid them in the afterlife. For many tribes, Wood Beads are an ecological preference over newer materials such as glass and plastic. The Maasai people of Kenya are particularly renowned for their ethical approach, and still prefer to use wooden beads for their elaborate tiered collars and exuberant pendants which distinguish them from other clans. Wooden Heishi Beads are among the earliest known formats to be produced for adornment. Both the Surma of Ethiopia and the Dogon tribes of Mali reproduced shell Heishi Beads from soft woods and bamboo, strings of which would often be exchanged with other clans for weaponry and animals. Distinguished by its reddish-brown hue and beautiful natural inclusions, Rosewood has become a particularly popular material for bead-craft among tribes in Ghana, the Congo and Cameroon. Usually round or oval in shape, Rosewood Beads are often used to create strings of Prayer Beads, or as accents for necklaces made of lighter woods, such as Olive and Palm. Known for their hardiness and durability, Olive Wood Beads have proven particularly popular for African Rosaries, and you'll find many are carved with symbols that have some kind of religious connotation. Palm Wood Beads, made from the timber of coconut bearing palm trees, are also becoming increasingly popular in the West. A delicious golden hue with flecks of dark brown, they make for beautiful focal spacers for Bohemian necklaces and chunky African bracelets!

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