Glass, Shell, and Bone Beads
Glass, shell, and bone beads are among the most common trade goods found at Early Historic sites. Glass beads were introduced into Native exchange systems by colonists. Glass beads could be small, large, colorful, or colorless. White glass "seed" beads can sometimes be indistinguishable from bone or shell beads without the use of a microscope. Shell, bone, and copper beads had been important prestige goods for centuries before Europeans arrived in Virginia. Once glass beads were introduced, the frequencies of different types of traded beads shifted, as did their meanings and social value. Virginia Indians continued to produce shell and bone beads and traded these with other Indian communities as well as with colonists.