A Glass Bead Sequence for Southern Africa from the 8th to the 16th Century AD

In: Journal of African Archaeology
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  • 1 1mwood@rockisland.com
  • 2 Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University
  • 3 School of Geography, Archaeology & Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

Many tens of thousands of glass beads have been recovered from well-dated 8th to 16th century archaeological sites in southern Africa, making it possible to develop a temporally sensitive bead sequence which is made up of seven series. The series were developed based on morphological characteristics and recent chemical analysis has confirmed those results. The bead series are described in detail along with possible origins for the glass used to create them. Chemical composition of the glasses used to make the beads demonstrates that three major changes in glass chemistry occurred between the 8th and 15th centuries, suggesting the different glasses originated in geographically disparate regions and indicating that trade patterns connecting southern Africa to other Indian Ocean entities were far from static.

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