Postcard: Glycymeris gigantea Bracelet

This artifact is an incised bracelet constructed from Glycymeris gigantea. It was recovered from canal fill (Feature 9) at site U:9:169(ASM) during ACS’ Red Mountain Freeway project (Powell and Boston 2004). Bittersweet shells, including Glycymeris sp., were popularly used to make bracelets due to the large size of the raw shell. Glycymeris sp. have a hinge edge with a row of teeth and an arched hinge plate. They live in shallow to moderately deep water, but are commonly found as single valves in beach drift. Glycymeris gigantea, one of the largest species in the family of bittersweet shells, may be up to 4 inches in height. The shell exhibits a zigzag pattern of reddish brown mottling, with about 30 hinge teeth. Glycymeris gigantea is not uncommon in its natural setting but is restricted to the Gulf of California. Glycymeris bracelets are the most common finished shell-artifact type found in Hohokam assemblages, with some evidence showing a decrease in popularity after the early Classic period. During the Sedentary period, bracelets were likely imported in finished form from the Papagueria.
The modified umbo on this bracelet includes a feather motif and a serpentine-like band decoration, similar to those described by Haury at Snaketown. The bracelet also features several perforations, possibly used to affix feathers or other perishables.
Andrea Gregory, M.A., ACS’ lead shell analyst, has been involved with both faunal and shell analysis since 1996. She has conducted analyses for projects spanning the Southwest including Utah, New Mexico, and throughout Arizona. To learn more about ACS and the services we offer, please visit the rest of our web site.