Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Judson Finley


Judson Finley


Anna Cohen


Jacob Freeman


Glass beads were brought to the North American continent by European explorers and traders beginning in the 17th century. Native Americans quickly adopted beads as trade commodities and personal ornaments. Prosser beads were made predominately in France and Bohemia from the 1860’s to the 1970’s and can be found in archaeological contexts from coast to coast. In this study, elemental analysis using X-Ray fluorescence (XRF) technology is used to determine if there is a way to chemically discern where and when the beads were made.

Statistical analysis of three categories of elements was done to determine whether the creation of a model of glass recipes for Prosser beads might be possible using XRF. Four major elements of feldspar, Si, Al, Ca, and K were analyzed, revealing a strong correlation between Al and K. Trace elements, Rb, Sr, Y, and Zr, which are associated with volcanic activity and alkali replacement in feldspar were examined, revealing that variation in Rb was strongly associated with Al. Finally, as a control, coloring elements that were intentionally added were examined, revealing that Co amounts had high variation, and were associated with statistical clusters of bead composition.

The study revealed that in the case of these beads, Al, K, Rb, and Co all varied together, and patterns of variation created clusters of beads in the analysis. This finding suggests the possibility that an elemental model is feasible. Ultimately, it may be possible to use a handheld XRF device in the field to determine quickly where and when, within a few decades, it was made.

The ability to distinguish this information about beads provides archaeologists with a powerful tool to trace patterns of trade and use of one of the most important commodities in Native American cultural adornment.