X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Morphological Analysis of Trade Beads from Palau, Micronesia


Glass beads have long played an important role in Micronesian societies. Oral histories and ethnographic accounts describe how clay and glass beads ("udoud") in Palau functioned as traditional forms of currency in exchange relationships and were apparently used by islanders from Yap several hundred miles away to negotiate access to limestone quarries that enabled them to carve their famous stone money disks ("rai"). Evidence shows that both stone money quarrying and the exchange of high-valued items such as beads increased after European contact. In this study, we have conducted the first compositional analysis of glass beads from Palau, which were recovered at the multicomponent site of Chelechol ra Orrak. X-Ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) and morphological analyses indicate that the beads were manufactured in both Europe and Asia and date to the mid-19th century. Detailed examination of several dozen of these beads not only provides insight into Yapese-Palauan interactions at the time of European contact, but helps anchor activities at the site with much greater chronological resolution.

Cite this Record

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Morphological Analysis of Trade Beads from Palau, Micronesia. Scott Fitzpatrick, Matthew Napolitano, Elliot Blair. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428900)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16130