By Eleanor Breen / Project Manager, Archaeological Collections Online
We found 240 beads in the South Grove Midden! Of these, 224 of were complete and 16 were broken. Remember the blog about soil processing methods? Archaeologists pay lots of attention to how excavated soil was processed when undertaking bead research. Sites where the soils were processed using a 1/16” fine screen mesh, either through waterscreening or flotation have the potential for higher bead retention rates than those which were only passed through the standard ¼” mesh dry screen.
The midden is a great example of how important fine screening is for retrieving the smallest artifacts. We would have lost 62% of the bead assemblage without fine screening. In other words, over half of the bead assemblage from the site contained beads that measure less than ¼”. By using a 1/8” mesh screen, we retained an additional 33 beads and by using a 1/16” window screen we captured a whopping 107 beads.
Last week I discussed how archaeologists think about beads and now let’s explore the 240 South Grove beads!
Size. Of the 240 beads, 227 have sufficient measurable dimensions to include in a size analysis. Sizes range from 0.8 – 17.49 mm long, 1.64 – 4.51 mm wide, and 1.68 – 4.38 mm in height.
Color. Archaeologists have written extensively about the meaning of bead color. Based on this literature, archaeologists often associate the color blue with slave-related occupations; however this association has increasingly come into question. The breakdown of the bead assemblage in terms of color is shown in Table 1. Blue beads make up a very small percentage of the overall assemblage, with the clear, red, and black being the dominant colors.
Type. The 240 beads can be grouped into 8 identifiable bead types utilizing the DAACS Bead Cataloguing Manualprotocols, as seen in Table 2.
Many of these types are made up of different colored beads. The bead assemblage is dominated by Type IIa (drawn, non-tubular, simple) and Type IIIa (drawn, tubular, complex). The former type is made of up only one layer of glass; the latter is made of two. For the most part, the beads are fairly plain in terms of decoration, with Type IVb being the only exception. This black glass bead has been decorated by adding stripes of white glass lengthwise on the exterior.