by Emiko Takeuchi – Archaeological Laboratory Volunteer
I was looking forward to getting back to work this morning as the bags which I was handling yesterday had some interesting materials: small pieces of glass and porcelain among tiny snails and shattered quartz flakes. The bags came from TU254, Field Specimen #3638 which had three-3 liter bags of pickings.
When I was almost finished with the second of three bags of picking materials, I saw a tiny green object among the sand and tiny rocks. I picked it up and asked the Laboratory Director, Elizabeth Paynter who was checking the drying racks in the laboratory at that time.
Elizabeth said excitedly, “a bead,” but for me, it was difficult to comprehend that it could be a bead. Mr. Christopher Sperling, a Senior Archaeologist with the Fairfax County Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch, came to the table. He attempted to take the photo with his iPhone, but it was too small. Elizabeth said that she would use the microscope and asked me to come with her.
Under the microscope, the bead was one millimeter in diameter, and I could see the hole in the middle. I was amazed again to see how tiny the bead was. Elizabeth explained to me that the bead was from Europe, around 1600-1800.
I wondered how such a small object was made and how one would thread a one millimeter bead. Chris explained the way beads were made. I was sure this bead would be used with many different sized beads, but they must have needed hundreds of such beads to design one object.
Update: Emiko found another bead while working on a different Field Specimen number! This one is definitely bigger at over two millimeters.