Monday, September 14, 2009

Just Bead It!

Today Kelley and I tackled the trash pit artifacts. All the soil from this feature was water screened and floated in order to find the smallest items. We found this purple glass bead among the fish scales and minute gravel. The photo above was taken by a digital microscope at 10x magnification. The bead is 3 mm in diameter and most likely wound. Wound beads were made by twirling a strand of glass around a wire until the desired thickness is reached. Two of the sides are flattened, possibly from the cooling process during manufacture. We have not yet pin-pointed a date, but this could be a trade bead, as other trade beads have previously been found at Port Tobacco.

Trade beads were made in Europe and brought over by explorers and colonists to give to the Native Americans in exchange for food and other supplies. The most highly prized beads in many areas were blue and white. Most wound trade beads date from the end of the 17th century. The size of our bead makes it a crow bead, rather than a seed bead, which are less than 2mm in diameter, or a pony bead, more than 4mm.

The exisitance of this bead, if it is in fact a trade bead, is another indication that Port Tobacco has a Contact Period component. This will require further investigation of the context in which this bead was found.

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