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Friday, July 17, 2009

Email on Beads

I got an interesting email this morning that deserves sharing. I have reworded the query a bit as the original email was from a non-english speaker (who did a reasonable job asking his question in my language - which is always appreciated).

> Could you explain the bead indexes Callmer uses?
> For example:
> B 422 Dark Blue T.
> I am interested in B422 (number of graves, number of beads found)?

While I am not ready to email people with information about each and every kind of bead in depth, this provides a good opportunity to discuss this further.

In 1977 Johann Callmer wrote a thesis TRADE BEADS AND BEAD TRADE IN SCANDINAVIA ca. 800-1000 A.D. (ISBN: 91-40-04466-1). Although there are significant problems with his typology the fact is that no-one has offered a better or more complete model, and it serves well for comparing beads.

In it Callmer tagged beads according to various criteria:
Length - measured along the string
Diameter - measured across the string
Proportion - the ratio of these two numbers
Colour - the background colour of the bead
Transparency - how clear the bead is
Decoration - is it monochrome or what kinds of decoration are applied
shape - the overall shape of the bead
construction method - drawn or worked
material - glass, stone, etc

Classes (such as B422) were then made by taking beads with similar criteria. The classes were then examined for trends.

B422 is one of those classes. They are decorated glass beads (type B) with a Dark Blue (colour 214) Transparent (translucency=181) base glass. The beads are cylindrical (shape=127), or rounded with (shape=124) or without (shape=122) flat ends. (see for shape pictures)

The length of the bead is at least 1/2 of the diameter (proportions 152, 153 and 154). The diameter is between 9 and 23 mm (size=164 to 168). It is decorated with a variety of types of lines (lines 311-315 in patterns 742,722,829,828,788,792 see his Fig 2 and Fig 3 for the patterns involved).

All of these definitions are in chapter 3 of the thesis.

In Table 1 Callmer tells us that B422 was popular in BPI(790-820), and dieing off in BPII(820-845). It isn't found again until BPVII(885-915), peaks again in BPVII(915-950) and finally vanishes during BPVI(950-960).

In Chatper 2 he documents 14 graves with 21 of these beads. Worth noting is UUM 4318 UP, Häggeby parish, Overhassla which has 5 of the 21 beads. The other graves are all 1 or 2 beads.

It is occasionally possible to get Callmer as a used book, and Inter Library Loans can pull it from many larger universities. This is an excellent source to begin looking at beads in the Viking Era.




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