Stacie found this amber bead when she was sorting samples last quarter. I have found amber beads before when working at a site on the (relatively) nearby Noatak River and blue glass beads from a 17th century site at Cape Krusenstern. But, beads are not an every day kind of find. Amber can be found on beaches or stream beds in northwest Alaska (although I have never found any this way). Beads were also made out of jet, ivory, glass, and very rarely, turquoise. In the 18th century people were using beads to make various types of necklaces, bracelets, nose, ear and hair ornaments. They would also sew beads onto clothes and headbands used only for special occasions and ceremonies (and usually then only by people of greater wealth and status)(Burch 2006:192, 257). Although one bead does not tell us much on it’s own, artifacts like this one can help in reconstructing past social organization. What I want to know is – where is the rest of the necklace?
Burch, Ernest S. 2006. Social life in northwest Alaska: the structure of Iñupiaq Eskimo nations. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.