Native American Artifacts – Beadwork

Published on March 15, 2013 by Carol

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Native American Artifacts – Beadwork

Beads have been use for decoration by the Native Americans for thousands of years. Some of the first beads were made of stone, shell and bone. European explorers brought with them beads made of glass and used them to barter with and gain favor with as gifts. Introduced in the mid 1800′s, very small glass beads called “seed beads” (due to their size) were traded by the Europeans in large numbers to the local natives. Seed Beads were used to make very intricate patterns, but were very costly for the Native Americans to acquire and were often a sign of someone’s wealth or status in the tribe. Early glass beads were manufactured cheaply in large quantities and thus were inconsistent. Even in a single color, you can see them vary in different hues and shapes. If you look closely at these beads you will notice some of these inconsistencies, some lighter, some darker, and often with flaws. Often popular beads were given descriptive names like “greasy yellow”, “Cheyenne pink” or “White Heart”

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Source: Museum of Native America Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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