Adornment : what self-decoration tells us about who we are / Stephen Davies.

  • Davies, Stephen, 1950-
  • Books

About this work


Elaborating the history, variety, pervasiveness, and function of the adornments and ornaments with which we beautify ourselves, this book takes in human prehistory, ancient civilizations, hunter-foragers, and present-day industrial societies to tell a captivating story of hair, skin, and make-up practices across times and cultures. From the decline of the hat, the function of jewelry and popularity of tattooing to the wealth of grave goods found in the Upper Paleolithic burials and body painting of the Nuba, we see that there is no one who does not adorn themselves, their possessions, or their environment. But what messages do these adornments send? Drawing on aesthetics, evolutionary history, archaeology, ethology, anthropology, psychology, cultural history, and gender studies, Stephen Davies brings together African, Australian and North and South American indigenous cultures and unites them around the theme of adornment. He shows us that adorning is one of the few social behaviors that is close to being genuinely universal, more typical and extensive than the high-minded activities we prefer to think of as marking our species religion, morality, and art.


London, UK ; New York, NY, USA : Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

Physical description

viii, 264 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some colour) ; 23 cm


The Sungir children -- What adornment is -- Bodily adornment practices -- Aesthetics and adornment in prehistory -- Differences between men and women -- Body painting and makeup -- Scarification and tattoos -- Piercings, plugs, and jewelry -- Clothing -- Bali -- Sungir writ large -- Conclusion.

Bibliographic information

Includes bibliographical references (pages 231-255) and index.


Where to find it

  • LocationStatus
    History of Medicine
    Open shelves

Permanent link



  • 1350120995
  • 9781350120990