Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spanish Empire Beads found off Georgia

Posted on for the full text and pictures check out:

A big shout out to Julee who sent us this link.

(April 13) - A cache of some 70,000 glass beads from all over the world has been unearthed at an island off Georgia, comprising the largest repository ever from what was one of the Spanish empire's most remote and wealthy outposts, and revealing more about 17th-century trade routes. Made of French and Chinese blue glass, Dutch layered glass and Baltic amber, the beads were found as part of an ongoing research project at the former Mission Santa Catalina de Guale on what is now called St. Catherines Island. Founded in the 16th century, this site was the capital and administrative center of the province of Guale in Spanish Florida for the better part of a century.

A huge cache of glass beads that once belonged to the Spanish empire has been discovered on St. Catherines Island off the coast of Georgia, according to research announced in April. The 70,000 beads were collected from all over the world and were found in a church cemetery. Most of them were buried with individuals as grave goods. "This is the northernmost outpost of the Spanish empire, but we see evidence of ancient trade routes from China via Manila's galleons to Mexico and Spain," said Lorann Pendleton, director of the archaeology laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History Museum in New York. A team from the museum led the excavation. "We also have found perhaps the first evidence of Spanish beadmaking, along with beads from the main centers of Italy, France, and the Netherlands."

The mission of Santa Catalina de Guale was inhabited by Franciscan missionaries and local people for most of the 17th century. The mission was a major source of grain for Spanish Florida and a provincial capital until 1680, when the mission was abandoned after a British attack. Since 1974, David Hurst Thomas, curator of anthropology at the museum, and colleagues have been unearthing this part of the island's history.

The current research is based on the complete excavation of the church's cemetery and extensive survey and excavation in other parts of the mission. Years of analysis reveal roughly 130 different types of beads on the island.

Most of the more common beads are of Venetian and potentially French origin, with new research suggesting that one of the most common beads of the 17th century, the Ichtucknee blue, was manufactured in France. Some of the unique beads, though, may be Spanish, Chinese, Bohemian, Indian or Baltic in origin. While roughly 2,000 beads were found elsewhere at the mission (such as in the convent), most were found in the cemetery under the church. These were items intentionally deposited with individuals as grave goods.


dragonjools said...

I looked at the pictures in the link - looked at the 3rd pic - with the black lampwork bead with the dots - and thought "I've made those." Apparently - all lampworkers have made those!

Julee said...

As I read about the bead find on Yahoo, I was imagining the comments on beadFX if my favorite Bead Ladies had come upon 70,000 antique beads in THEIR backyards!

Julee said...

As I was reading about this find on Yahoo, I was wondering what the headline would be on beadFX if my favorite Crazeee Candian Ladies had found these beads!
Imagine ... 70,000 antique beads!