Historical Archaeology

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 17–27 | Cite as

The interpretive potential of glass trade beads in historic archæology

  • Janet D. Spector


Glass trade beads, because of their frequency of occurrence at historic sites, and because of the culturally prescribed manner in which they were utilized by Indian groups, should be an artifact type with considerable temporal and cultural interpretive potential in historic archæology. Two approaches, ethnohistoric and archæological, are advocated here as means of maximizing the interpretive potential of beads. Both approaches can contribute to the formalization of descriptive methods as an initial step in the analysis of beads, rendering bead samples from different sites comparable. In the following pages an exploration of both the ethnohistoric and archæological approaches is presented in an effort to demonstrate the potential of trade beads in historic sites archæology and to stimulate more intensive and extensive trade bead research.


Historic Site Molten Glass Surface Decoration Artifact Type Bead Type 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janet D. Spector
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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