Museum Highlights: National Museum of Scotland, Part 1

The National Museum of Scotland holds a very dear place in my heart, since I spent the majority of my MLitt dissertation working feverishly on the bead collections here.

My first visit to the museum was actually for a class. We were to wander around the majority of Scottish History and Archaeology, though our primary focus was the early medieval to Norse periods.

NMS-1There are so many beads in this exhibit that I need to split up this post in order to talk about them all, and I’m only going to talk about the beads from the Romans to Norse for now. For anyone who loves beads, the Scotland galleries at the NMS are basically heaven. Continue reading

Posted in Archaeological Beads, Museum Beads | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stripes, Swirls, and Squiggles: Line Styles

eye bead-5Line style is a fairly straightforward category. This basically describes the pattern of any lines that decorate the bead – not the pattern those lines make, but the pattern they have.

There are only a few options for this. First is a monochrome line. The line is a single colour, nothing more. This is the most common style; most line styles are monochrome. Continue reading

Posted in Lab Notes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Swag Beads

swag-3Swag beads are probably my favourite type of design, largely because of the name. It really is a technical term, and I am all for bringing it back into popular usage in bead studies.

swag-1Swag on a bead simply refers to a continuous wavy line traveling round the bead. It can be any colour, though I mostly see white or yellow on a dark blue, black, or sometimes ark green. These lines can also be reticella, which is composed of multiple colours twisted together to form a single line. Continue reading

Posted in Bead Basics, Bead Types | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Museum Highlights: Upcountry History Museum

UHM-2Last Friday, I was down in Greenville, South Carolina for my twin brother’s wedding. My family and I flew into Charlotte, getting into Greenville around 11:30 in the morning. We had a good 4 hours before we could check into the inn we were staying at, and when faced with such situations, my family tends to find a local museum. So that’s exactly what we did.

The Upcountry History Museum may seem relatively small, but there’s a lot of history packed into that building. They talk about the history of the area from pre-colonial times to present day, at least as much as they can in the space they have. Personally, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the exhibits. Continue reading

Posted in Archaeological Beads, Museum Beads | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stripes, Swirls, and Squiggles: Design Shape

eye bead-12Aside from the number of colours involved in the design, the first element I record is the shape itself. This can be any design that isn’t a line, like eyes, flowers, spirals, stars, fish, birds, etc.

eye bead-6The simplest shape is a dot. You can also get a dot with a circle around it, a dot with multiple circles around it, or a dot that looks like a rayed sun. Sometimes these are laid out in a pattern, sometimes they aren’t. Continue reading

Posted in Bead Basics, Methodologies | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Zone Beads

Zone beads are another pretty large category of polychrome bead, though they only seem to be called zone beads in Asia. Zone beads are any bead with one or more lines around the centre, running perpendicular to the perforation, such that the bead is divided into two halves of equal size. In order for this to work, the line must connect to itself, forming a circle all the way round the bead. Continue reading

Posted in Bead Basics, Bead Types | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Museum Highlights: Historic Jamestowne

Jamestown chevrons 2After looking at all these beads, a lot of you are probably wondering where you might be able to see all these beads, or at least examples of them. Archaeological beads are never terribly far away – nearly every museum has them, if you just know where to look. So I’m starting a new series of articles highlighting various museums, the exhibits you can find beads in (that I’ve seen), and how to get there – a sort of bead tourism, if you will.

The first place I’m going to talk about is one of if not the most important sites from the colonial era of the United States. You’ve probably heard a lot about it in the news recently because of the recent evidence for cannibalism. Continue reading

Posted in Archaeological Beads, Museum Beads | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stripes, Swirls, and Squiggles: Documenting Bead Designs

eye bead-8Documenting design is a highly complex thing to do. Yesterday’s post talked only about eye beads, but we saw that there is a large variety of what might be called eye beads in the archaeological record. So how do we even begin to talk about design?

This particular system took me a few years to work out, honestly. You can’t really just write “eye bead” in a column labelled “design” for the same reason you can’t really just write “red” in a column labelled “colour.” It’s far too broad a term. Continue reading

Posted in Bead Basics, Methodologies | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eye Beads

eye bead-12If we’re going to go through common polychrome designs, you have to talk about eye beads. Eye beads have been around for thousands of years in various forms, and they appear all over Europe, Africa, and Asia. Continue reading

Posted in Bead Basics, Bead Types | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Recycled Blue-Green Bead from Thailand

So, I was going through my older bead photos for some newer posts and came across this one. Somehow I had forgotten about this bead, even though I focused on it quite heavily when I first documented it.

recycling

It’s a recycled, drawn, translucent (believe it or not) blue-green Indo-Pacific bead from southern Thailand.

Let’s unpack all that a bit. Continue reading

Posted in Archaeological Beads, Museum Beads | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment