Nueva Cadiz Beads

Project details

  • Date

     February 3, 2015

  • Task

     Study Collection

  • Category

     Exchange, Glass

  • Object number – Various
  • Material – Glass
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – c. 1607-1624
  • Context – James Fort
  • Location – Archaearium
  • Category – Exchange

This type of glass bead is named after a 16th-century Spanish colony in Venezuela where this type of bead was first recognized by archaeologists. Hundreds of Nueva Cadiz beads have been excavated from the James Fort site thus far. This bead was probably manufactured in Venice and became part of the colonists’ trade kit. Its blue color would have been a desirable trade item to the Virginia Indians who, according to reports, highly valued beads that were the color of the sky.

Two varieties of these beads are commonly found in the James Fort excavations. One is longer, with a light blue exterior layer of glass. The other is quite a bit shorter, with a dark blue layer of glass. Both types are square when viewed in cross section and almost always contain three layers of glass.