Tracking a Conquistador with Beads

Tracking a Conquistador with Beads

DeSoto Identified by Chevron Beads in Georgia!

Tracking a Conquistador with Beads

Desoto’s calling cards?

Five years after Fernbank Museum launched an archaeological expedition to investigate the history of early contact between Native American Indians and Europeans in Georgia, their exhibit, De Soto’s Footsteps, On view May 22, 2010 – March 31, 2012 showcases some of the rare artifacts that tell of those encounters and will reveal the significance of the findings.

Among the objects on display are Native American artifacts such as pottery, pipes and stone tools, as well as artifacts carried by the Spanish, highlighted by four distinctive types of glass beads, and objects of iron, brass, and silver. None of the objects had ever been on public display. These findings generated intense interest from archaeologists, scholars, historians and the National Geographic Society, which were to continue with further research.

Beads often reveal long-lost histories of countries, cultures, and people. For example, in November 2009, archaeologists with Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History unearthed the first evidence of conquistador Hernando de Soto’s stay in Georgia, in the U.S., in 1540. The evidence used to make this determination is beads!

It’s was long suspected that de Soto passed through Georgia on his way from Tallahassee, Florida, to North Carolina, however no solid proof of this had ever been found. Then, Fernbank Museum archeologists discovered a cache of rare glass and chevron beads, which ScienceDaily describes as ” ‘calling cards’ of De Soto due to their distinctive patterns and limited production.” These beads are significant because Native Americans did not have glass beads before Europeans introduced them as trade items.

According to Dennis Blanton, the Fernbank Museum’s curator of Native American archaeology, &quto;Until we know De Soto’s path, we won’t fully understand Native populations or the changes that took place after European contact. This is where the Spanish story and the Native story become one.” And it seems those stories are stitched together with beads.

What is a Chevron Bead? Crazy Crow Trading Post

What is a Chevron Bead?

A chevron is a bead type produced from a glass “cane” known as a Rosetta. Cane refers to rods of glass with color; these rods can be simple, containing a single color, or they can be complex and contain many strands of multiple colors in pattern, as are those used in producing the chevron beads.

Chevrons were drawn from a hollow cane typically with six thin layers of glass, traditionally white, blue, white, brick red, white then finally blue. This was then ground to produce patterns with five concentric stars with twelve points. The canes were chopped allowing large numbers of beads to be produced from each production run.

They were first produced in Venice, on the island of Murano at the end of the 14th century with the first reference to chevrons appearing in the inventory of the Barovier glass works in 1496. They were one of the core bead types used as Trade Beads destined for West Africa and the Americas. Like most Murano glass making techniques of the time, production processes were heavily protected.