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6.2.7 String of Blue Glass Beads

These blue glass beads were not the most expensive items made in ancient Egyptian workshops, but they were very popular as trade items. In 2014, archaeologists in Denmark used a new technique called plasma-spectrometry to test a blue glass bead found in the grave of a woman who died 3,400 years ago in the land that is today Denmark. The technique measures the chemical composition of trace elements. It found that the blue glass bead from Denmark came from the same Egyptian workshop that made the glass for the funeral mask of King Tutankhamun (the famous King Tut), who died in 1324 BCE.

Egyptian glasswork shop
circa 1300 BCE
Object

String of Blue Glass Beads. circa 1300 BCE. Egypt, A27838, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution.1http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/3dd464bfa-e90f-44bd-80c5-3c0d94caf7ee

These blue glass beads were not the most expensive items made in ancient Egyptian workshops, but they were very popular as trade items. In 2014, archaeologists in Denmark used a new technique called plasma-spectrometry to test a blue glass bead found in the grave of a woman who died 3,400 years ago in the land that is today Denmark. The technique measures the chemical composition of trace elements. It found that the blue glass bead from Denmark came from the same Egyptian workshop that made the glass for the funeral mask of King Tutankhamun (the famous King Tut), who died in 1324 BCE. How far away is Denmark from Egypt? Networks of exchange stretched that far, perhaps because there were supplies of amber in Denmark. Amber has been found in ancient Egyptian graves as well.

The blue glass beads seen in this photograph are not the beads found in the Danish grave, but these were also made in ancient Egypt. This 2014 test provides the only certain evidence of Egyptian blue glass beads outside of the Mediterranean area, but the plasma-spectrometric technique has not yet been applied to most archaeological finds. Students should look at a map to see that Egypt and Denmark are roughly 2,000 miles apart. Amber from the Baltic Sea area was often imported into ancient Mediterranean societies, and the bead might have been exchanged for amber.