EMF - Previous Meetings

November 1998

May 2001

Bead Making in Viking York

Justine Bayley, Ancient Monuments Lab, English Heritage

Excavations by York Archaeologial Trust on two sites in the centre of York have prodcued evidence for the manufacture of glass beads, mainly from 10th and 11th century contexts. Two types of glass were being worked, blue soda glass, and high-lead glass that was mainly dark green or black. The blue glass appears to be re-used Roman scrap; small quantities were melted on rough discs cut from domestic ceramics, scraped off and wound into beads. These ceramic discs, complete and mis-formed beads, and drawn out glass trails are among the finds. The evidence for high-lead glass working is less complete; there are numerous crucible fragments containing high-lead glass, as well as beads made from glass of this type.

Analyses of the mis-formed and complete blue glass beads, waste and glass on the ceramic discs shows it all has a similar composition and so confirms the interpretation given above.

Analyses of the high-lead glass was less helpful as the composition of the green/black glass on the crucibles did not match that of the yellow, green or black beads from the site. It is possible that the glass was used instead to make linen smoothers (slick stones) as several examples made of high-lead glass have been found on the Coppergate site. Further analytical work is planned to test this hypothesis.

Full publication of the finds is forthcoming in the Archaeology of York series and a brief paper on these finds will appear in the proceedings of the 1998 AIHV Congress which should appear in 1999.


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