Scottish Marbled Beads

Scottish marbled beads (which is the best way I can describe them) are one of my favorite types that I’ve somehow come across. Honestly, I’ve only seen two, maybe three. If any of you have found or seen beads like this from archaeological contexts, please let me know in the comments!

As I said, I’ve only seen two clear examples. One comes from Clarilaw Muir and the other from Culbin Sands, both in Scotland. Both are from contexts possibly dating to the first millennium AD, but both may also be from contexts dating to much later periods. We don’t know due to issues of context reporting when it comes to the recovery of beads and the fact that beads are often surface finds anyway.

CS 100

These beads consist of a translucent dark blue base with a secondary color marbled in. Since the dark blue base is translucent, it combines with the secondary color (yellow or red) to create a third color (green or purple, respectively) without adding a third color of glass. There is also a third bead that may belong to this group, but it mixes translucent and opaque yellow rather than two separate colors.

CS 071

Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of beads where two colors are combined in a pattern. I have never before seen beads where two colors are layered so as to create a third without adding a third color of glass.

The exciting thing about this is that it demonstrates an understanding of perception of color and knowledge of basic color theory. While it shouldn’t be surprising that people whenever these beads were made know about perception and colors, it is exciting that they’re experimenting with it in glass bead form.

I wrote on my other blog about how archaeology is about people. It’s about trying to form a connection with the people of the past and get a sense of who they were. So when we get beads that show complexity like this in experimentation with color and design, I get particularly excited.

Since I’ve only seen two of them and their contexts are questionable, I can’t say much more about these beads. But if anyone here has seen something similar, let’s start a discussion in the comments so we can figure out what and where they are and who was using them. And then maybe, if we’re super lucky, we can figure out why.


About Heather Christie

Heather is an archaeologist, photographer, and writer whose research focuses on beads and bead trade, particularly in a maritime sense. She's currently working working on a PhD in Digital Design (focusing on heritage visualisation) at the Glasgow School of Art.
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3 Responses to Scottish Marbled Beads

  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #5 | Doug's Archaeology

  2. Torben says:

    As i´m a replica maker for 19 years now, it looks to me as someone has used the final left over parts from making “Schraubenfädenperlen”/”Spiralperlen”.

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