Exploring the Pattern of Black and White Bead Use within African American Domestic Spaces

Author(s): Lori Lee; James Davidson

Year: 2020


This is an abstract from the session entitled "African Diaspora in Florida" , at the 2020 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

One artifact associated within African Diaspora Archaeology is the blue-glass bead, recognized by some as signifying African-derived culture and beliefs. Recent research examining beads from African American mortuary contexts in the United States from the 18th to early 20th centuries has demonstrated that rather than blue beads, black and white beads actually dominate. Further, ethnohistorical sources examined for much of sub-Saharan Africa documents this preference, notes the color blue is often viewed as symbolically “black,” and associates these beads almost exclusively with women and children with meanings embedded within fertility, birth and protection. This current study begins the process of searching for these patterns of color significance within well-provenienced domestic contexts, such as slave cabins and post emancipation homes. The ability to associate these color choices, observed archaeologically, with inherent meaning derived ethnographically, holds great potential for insights into the lives of these African women and their children.   

Cite this Record

Exploring the Pattern of Black and White Bead Use within African American Domestic Spaces. Lori Lee, James Davidson. 2020 ( tDAR id: 456795)

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Temporal Keywords
18th - 20th centuries

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 928