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Beads are a common feature on archaeological sites across North America, and 25SW49 is not an exception. A total of twelve glass beads were recovered. The various colors of the beads are pale blue, dark blue, black, and white. The beads were classified using the classification system created by Steven Leroy De Vore during his work at Fort Union in North Dakota.

The beads excavated from the site represent two manufacturing processes or classes. The first class is hollow-cane manufacture. Nine beads of this type were recovered. Hollow-cane beads are manufactured by introducing an air bubble into molten glass. Different colors could be produced by adding colorant to the molten glass before the manufacturing process began. The bubble was then thickened by immersing it into more molten glass. Then the glass was stretched into a tube shape with the air bubble in the middle. Once the tube had cooled the glass could be cut into beads of different shapes and sizes (De Vore 1992:13)

The second class of beads is wire-wound manufacture. Three beads of this type were found at the site. Wire-wound beads were manufactured by gathering molten glass and wrapping it around a metal mandrel or wire. When the beads cooled, they were placed in a tumbler to dull sharp edges and to polish them (De Vore 1992:32). One of the wire-wound beads from provenience 25SW49.0186 is of complex construction. This bead has a colored band of glass spiraled around it. This would have been accomplished in a similar manner to the manufacturing of simple wire-wound beads. However, once this bead cooled, the glass decoration was added. The extra step makes this bead of complex construction.

Figure 8.1 shows the distribution of the beads in test units across the site. Half of the beads, six, were found in unit 37 while the rest were found singularly in different units. The wire-wound beads were found in units 34 and 37, and those of the hollow-cane variety were found in units 11, 12, 30, 37, 40, and 41. Table 8.1 presents the breakdown of the beads by provenience. The highest concentration of beads, eight of 12, is located in the northeast corner of the excavated area.

Beads were used as trade goods between Europeans and Native Americans for as long as such interactions were taking place. Beads were light and easy to transport and were highly valued by many groups of Native Americans especially for decorative purposes (De Vore 1992:12). Beads were also used by Euro-Americans to decorate clothing and other personal items. The beads at Beaver Crossing most likely represent beads lost from decorated items by either the occupants of the site or the many travelers along the trail. It is possible that the residents of Beaver Crossing stocked the beads to trade with any local Native Americans who may have lived nearby.

Table 8.1 Beads at Beaver Crossing
Prov. Test Unit Class Series Type Variety
0.0052 11 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 5 (Hexagonal tube, faceted) A (Black)
0.0069 12 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 1 (Donut) D (Blue)
0.0156 30 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 1 (Donut) E (Blue)
0.0167 34 II (Wire-round) A (Simple Construction) 1 (Donut) A (White)
0.0182 37 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 1 (Donut) E (Blue)
0.0182 37 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 5 (Hexagonal tube, faceted) A (Black)
0.0182 37 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 1 (Donut) A (White)
0.0182 37 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 1 (Donut) D (Pale Blue)
0.0186 37 II (Wire-round) C (Complex Construction) 2 (Elliptical) A (White)
0.0186 37 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 1 (Donut) D (Pale Blue)
0.0194 40 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 5 (Hexagonal tube, faceted) A (Black)
0.0199 41 I (Hollow Cane) A (Simple Construction) 5 (Hexagonal tube, faceted) A (Black)
*from De Vore's classification

Figure 8.1 Bead distribution by test unit


De Vore, Steven Leroy.
1992Beads of the Bison Robe Trade: the Fort Union Trading Post Collection.. Friends of Fort Union Trading Post, Williston, North Dakota.