Glass Beads and Evidence for Early "Pre-Contact" Trade in Northwestern Alaska

Author(s): Thomas Fenn; Doug Anderson

Year: 2017


Exploring early contact between native peoples of Alaska and Eurasian cultures provides important information on the movement of people and materials throughout greater Beringia. Glass trade beads are particularly well suited to explore these relationships, as they were not made locally and high-precision chemical analyses can provide string evidence to the production origins of the beads. Glass beads were recovered from excavation of a site dating from the late 1700s to early 1800s, just before official contact with non-native explorers, on the Kobuk River near Kiana, northwestern Alaska. Questions regarding these beads are whether they originated from the west, from or through Asia, or from the Alaskan interior via North American trade from the east. This paper reviews evidence for early glass bead trade into Alaska and presents new chemical analyses of the Kobuk River site. Results suggest Asian and trans-Asian origins for the glass beads. Discussion of the potential trade routes and mechanisms are explored.

Cite this Record

Glass Beads and Evidence for Early "Pre-Contact" Trade in Northwestern Alaska. Thomas Fenn, Doug Anderson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430624)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17437