A complete necklace made of tubular conch columella beads found in the area of the Caplen Mound site (41GV1). Caplen Mound was a cemetery dating primarily to Late Prehistoric and early Historic times. Perkins Collection, TARL.


Prehistoric craftsmen fashioned a diverse range of ornaments from the varied and often exotic-looking marine shells abundantly available along the Texas coast. Opalescent oyster shells could be cut into discs and perforated to make flat beads. Smaller, colorful Olive shells were drilled and strung on cords for use on necklaces and belts, or sewn separately on clothing as tinklers. Because of their large size, shells of lightning whelk (Busycon perversum pulleyi) and Florida horse conch (Pleuroploca gigantea) were prized for making ornaments and other items. The inner columella could be drilled at the top to form a long, vertical pendant. Blanks cut from the outer whirl also could be made into perforated disc beads or gorgets. Bird bones and turtle shell, as well as human bone, also were made into beads and ornaments. Shown here are a few examples of shell ornaments from coastal sites.

Shell pendants of varying sizes from the Cayo del Oso site, 41NU2. Photo from TARL Archives.

Elongate beads made from conch columella from a Victoria County site, on display at the Museum of the Coastal Bend.