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After more than 20 years...

Asia's Maritime Bead Trade from

ca. 300 BC to the Present

Peter Francis, Jr. (2002) Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. 352 pp. (32 glossy) Hardback


The story of beads cannot be told in isolation. They are very old and universal and make a perfect item of commerce. By examining a long period of time and a wide geographical range this book allows the bead story to be better understood.

The book covers the trade in beads for 2300+ years from West Asia (aka the Middle East) through East Asia. In fact, it involves more: Pacific island heirlooms, the shores of East Africa, the early trade to West Africa, across the Pacific to Alaska and Mexico, and even around the world ending up in a Spanish mission in Georgia (USA).

The major and minor bead industries in glass and stone are studied in detail. The four prominent organic gems -- amber, coral, ivory, and pearls -- are also followed in depth.

There are familiar names here: Emperors of Rome and China; Kings of England and India; European adventurers. Some names will be new to many readers: the Sa Huynh; the Pandukal People; the Manikgrammen. Unintentionally, the book has illuminated aspects of history lost without the lens beads provide.

Most of the information has been gathered first hand. The archaeological data are rich, as are the historical and ethnographic. The concentration is on identifying beads through their manufacturing techniques, to trace their trade around Asia and beyond, and to understand the uses of the beads through the ages.

Asia's Maritime Bead Trade

 is profusely illustrated. In addition to 16 glossy color and 16 glossy black and white pages, drawings, maps, and tables aid the reader to follow the fascinating story.


Asia's Maritime Bead Trade




Section One: Background
Scope of the Work
Beads, Bead Materials, and Beadmaking

Section Two: Indo-Pacific Beads
Introduction to Indo-Pacific Beads
Indo-Pacific Beadmaking Centers
Indo-Pacific Bead Byproducts and the Distribution of the Beads

Section Three: Chinese Glass Beads
Beadmaking Centers and Identifying Chinese Beads
The Export of Chinese Beads
Chinese Beads in the Asian Maritime Bead Trade

Section Four: Beads from the Middle East
Middle Eastern Glass Beads
Middle Eastern Beadmaking Techniques in Southeast Asia

Section Five: Stone Beads in the Asian Maritime Trade
The Western Indian Stone Bead Industry
The South Indian Stone Beadmaking

Section Six: Some Minor Bead Industries
Glass Beadmaking in Southeast Asia
Minor Stone Bead Industries in the Asian Maritime Trade
Organically Derived Gem Materials

Section Seven: Drawing to a Close
The End of the Asian Maritime Bead Trade
Heirloom Beads in Southeast Asia and Micronesia

The Type Collection of Beads at the National Museum of the Philippines
Analyses of Indo-Pacific Beads





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