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Preservation Virginia > Jamestown Rediscovery > Research Resources > The Journal of the Jamestown Rediscovery Center > JJRC - Vol. 1 > JJRC - Vol. 1 - Lapham > JJRC - Vol. 1 - Lapham - Nueva Cadiz-like Beads

The Journal of the Jamestown Rediscovery Center

Volume 1

More Than "A Few Blew Beads": The Glass and Stone Beads from Jamestown Rediscovery's 1994-1997 Excavations

Heather Lapham
University of Virginia

2.1.4 Nueva Cadiz-like Beads

Turquoise Nueva Cadiz-like Beads The Jamestown assemblage contains two varieties of nueva cadiz-like beads: square-tubular turquoise blue beads (Kidd IIIc1) and square-tubular navy blue beads (Kidd IIIc3). Both types are square in cross section, exhibit faceted/ground ends, contain an opaque white middle glass layer, and differ only in the color of blue in the outer glass layer and core. All of the nueva cadiz-like beads in the Jamestown sample except one contain three layers of glass. The exception, a turquoise bead, exhibits five layers. In addition, all but one example adheres to a standard color sequence. A lone navy blue bead contains a core of transparent apple-green glass.

Navy Blue Nueva Cadiz-like Beads Both turquoise and navy blue varieties have long been referred to as "nueva cadiz" beads, a term used widely to describe long, tubular beads of square cross-section. Nueva cadiz beads derive their name from excavations of the 16th-century Spanish port of Nueva Cadiz, located on Cubagua Island off the coast of Venezuela. "True" nueva cadiz beads were found in great quantity at the site and are linked specifically with early-to-middle 16th-century Spanish explorations of southeastern North America and adjacent territories (Smith and Good 1982).4

Nueva cadiz-like varieties occur in small quantities on other sites in the northern Middle Atlantic and Northeast. The late 16th and early 17th centuries saw a revival of nueva cadiz beads, although the later beads differed in color and color sequence from true nueva cadiz beads of the early 16th century (Smith and Good 1982).5 Nueva cadiz-like varieties have been found in several early 17th-century contexts. These include sites affiliated with the Susquehanna of south-central Pennsylvania (Kent 1983; Smith and Graybill 1977), the Monongahela of western Pennsylvania (Lapham 1995; Lapham and Johnson 1999), and the Iroquois in New York and southern Ontario (Fitzgerald 1982; Kenyon 1982; Sempowski 1994; Wray et al. 1991; see also summary in Smith and Good 1982:51-52). Specimens recovered from indigenous sites tend to be one of two varieties:
1) a turquoise bead (Kidd IIIc1) similar but not identical to examples in Jamestown's assemblage, and
2) a twisted turquoise bead with an opaque redwood core (Kidd IIIc'3) that is not found in the Jamestown collection.

Jamestown's nueva cadiz-like beads differed significantly in three ways from those found at the aforementioned native sites. First, nueva cadiz-like varieties occurred in much greater quantities at Jamestown than any at other site in the Middle Atlantic and northeastern regions. Whereas nearly a fifth of the beads uncovered by the Jamestown Rediscovery project from 1994 to 1997 were nueva cadiz-like beads, these types usually made up less than 1% of the bead assemblage at the native sites. Second, the navy blue variety appears to be unique to Jamestown Island. It has not yet been found in any other late 16th- or early 17th-century context. Third, the turquoise nueva cadiz-like beads found at Jamestown are smaller in size, particularly in diameter, than those found at other contemporaneous sites.6 The average diameter of the turquoise nueva cadiz-like beads in the Jamestown assemblage is 3.8 mm, whereas the four beads from the Monongahela Foly Farm site in northwestern Pennsylvania average 6.7 mm (Lapham 1995) and the single specimen from the Susquehanna Schultz site in central Pennsylvania is 5.0 mm in diameter (Smith and Graybill 1977:59). Differences between nueva cadiz-like beads unearthed at Jamestown and those found elsewhere in the Middle Atlantic and Northeast attest to the uniqueness of the two Jamestown varieties and to their affinity with 16th-century Spanish types.

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