Orange Coil Beads from Wonosari

Orange glass coil beads from Indonesia

Orange glass coil beads from Indonesia

Orange coil beads are something I’ve only really seen in Southeast Asia. That doesn’t mean they aren’t found in other places, but I don’t think they’re as common as they are in Southeast Asia.

Orange coil beads are made of opaque orange glass. The color is created by adding cuprous oxide (copper) to the glass. The result is a very rusty orange color (right side of the string) or a sort of reddish-orange color (left side of the string).

Coil beads are simply wound beads, but they tend to be longer than they are wide and you can easily see the layers of coiled glass.

These particular beads were found at Wonosari, which is a site near the south-central coast of Java. It’s located in the Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, or the special province of Yogyakarta. These beads were on display at Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta when I visited in 2010.

All the beads were surface finds, which means they can be from pretty much any period. These types of beads were in use as early as about 200BC, and are still used in many places throughout Indonesia today.  On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that we can’t get much more information from these bead. On the other hand, I personally like the fact that people are still using this style of bead that has been used for millennia. But unless we can test the chemistry of the beads, we can’t really know where they were made or when. And if we don’t know when they were made, we can only guess at who might have used them.


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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