Faience and glass beads from the late Bronze Age shipwreck at Uluburun
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Beads are one of the earliest forms of ornamentation created by humans; prized during the Bronze Age for both their aesthetic as well as amuletic value, beads also served to signify the social status of the wearer. Beads functioned as an important trade commodity during the Late Bronze Age, as demonstrated by their abundance aboard the Uluburun shipwreck. This Late Bronze Age shipwreck, discovered off the Turkish coast at Uluburun in 1982, dates to approximately 1300 B.C. Thousands of beads of vitreous material were found on the shipwreck, including approximately 75,000 faience beads and 9,500 glass beads. Bead form and style represented in the faience and glass beads at Uluburun are relatively simple and are quite common at archaeological sites throughout the Late Bronze Age Levant. Faience beads found at Uluburun vary widely in form and comprise eight distinct categories. While the surface glaze remains in rare patches only, most faience beads exhibit a blue undertone. Other colors, while less common, include red, yellow, white and turquoise. The glass beads found at Uluburun may be loosely grouped into two categories, small and large. Many of the large glass beads exhibit yellow and white spot or crumb decoration, or a combination of both, and there is a distinctpossibility that all the large glass beads were decorated in this way, but surface deterioration masks the decoration. Many of the faience and glass bead categories represent items of cargo, as evidenced by a concreted lump of small glass beads transported inside a Canaanite jar. Other, less prolific, bead categories probably represent the personal belongings of the crew or passengers aboard the ship. Beads found in archaeological contexts are notoriously difficult to date due to their extended use throughout generations; for this reason, the Uluburun beads represent an important contribution to the archaeological record and bead studies in particular, for the mere fact that they may be dated by provenance alone to the late 14th century B.C.
Ingram, Rebecca Suzanne (2003). Faience and glass beads from the late Bronze Age shipwreck at Uluburun. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from