However the beads were used, the concept of beads as a medium of exchange, a record of treaties, or a social status marker involves abstraction. They represent an idea. Ideas surely became much more powerful when they were portable. They have a much longer and wider reach when they can be shared and embodied in something other than a given person’s brain.
Most likely the underlying issue for the dissenters is that the anthropologists are Darwinians and in any Darwinian scheme, someone must be the subhuman. Otherwise, there is no beginning to human history. The Neanderthals are convenient for the purpose. If we found a Stone Age laptop among the Neanderthal artifacts, the same people might still be claiming it didn’t prove anything.
It’s not just that the ornaments did not have a practical use. They probably expressed something. Eagle talons, for example, might imply something about the person who wore them, in the same way that a peace sign implies something about the wearer today. But it may have implied the opposite thing.
When “evolution” becomes history, it knocks a lot of nonsense off its pedestal. Remember when people couldn’t think that way back then?