Osceola County Historical Society Blog

Artifact Spotlight: European Glass Trade Beads

Posted by Larissa Bixby on Mar 23, 2017 7:47:34 AM

In the last weeks of Florida Archaeology Month, let’s talk beads. Beads are an important part of Native American cultures. The size, shape, color, and material of beads denotes status in many native cultures. Early beads found in Florida and the greater Eastern coastal region were made from clay, bone and shell. Clay and bone beadswere the easiest to make and became the most abundant. However, beads from the quahog clam, wampum, was also popular on the Eastern coast. The mostly white shell of the quahog has shades of light to deep purple around its edges; the amount of purple varies from shell to shell, making the color rarer and worth twice the amount of white wampum. Purple wampum designated their wearer as powerful, wealthy, and important in the community.


 Purple Wampum.jpgWhite Wampum.jpg


Quahog Shell.jpg

White Wampum, Interior of Quahog Shell, Purple Wampum

In 1527, Spanish explorers with Pánfilo de Narváez introduced European glass beads to Florida. At this time, Venetian glass makers had a monopoly on glass beads and were almost the exclusive makers for the European market. Many of these early glass beads have not survived to today. Instead, the easier to make seed bead that was popularized in the 1800s, became in demand as Native American women finely tuned their bead-working craft. The small seed bead can range in size from 1.5mm to 9mm. They are utilized for both loom and off-loom weaving in the creation of garments, bags, belts and other accessories.

Seed Beads.jpg

An assortment of colored seed beads


Guests to the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum have the opportunity to view both early Native American beadwork from the region, as well as our collection of Seminole artifacts including beaded bags and belts.

Beaded Handbag.jpgClay and Stone Bracelet.jpg









                    Seminole beaded bag                                                              Clay and stone bracelet


While Florida Archaeology Month draws to a close, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn more about the vital role archaeologists play in digging up our region’s past. Bring the kids and join us Wednesday, May 10th from 5 to 6 pm for Archaeology Night at the Museum. Our guests from Florida Public Archaeology Network will be giving a hands-on demonstration of how archaeologists use pottery to learn about the people of the past.

 Pottery Night at the Museum-1.jpg

Sources: Eddins, O. 2017 “History of Trade Beads”. Peach State Archaeological Society.


Topics: Osceola County History, Florida Archaeology Month, European Glass Trade Beads

About this Blog

The Osceola County Historical Society is focused on preserving Osceola County’s rich, cultural history while sharing it with others. This blog is perfect for just that. 

Remember, here you can find information on:

  • Osceola County History
  • Pioneer Families
  • Events at the Welcome Center and History Museum
  • Much, much more!

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all