Project (2014-2015)

Indo-Pacific Beads

Indo-Pacific beads are important trade commodities exchanged along the Maritime Silk Route. Previous studies have focused mainly on the Indo-Pacific beads found in South and Southeast Asia, whereas little is known about the Indo-Pacific beads found in China. This project researches five tiny red beads excavated from a noble’s tomb of the Han Dynasties (202 BCE220 CE) in Yunnan Province, China, by integrating the archaeological, textual, and scientific information, and provides positive information for scholars about the Indo-Pacific beads found in China. Several scientific methods, such as X-ray diffraction (XRD), energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF), and synchrotron radiation micro-computed tomography (SR-µCT), are applied to analyze the beads in a nondestructive manner. Acquiring data about the structure and chemical information of the prepared samples provides information about the raw materials used and the manufacturing technique. The chemical composition of Chinese glass and of South Asian and Southeast Asian Indo-Pacific beads are compared as a way to explore the provenance of the beads. Linking the archaeological distribution information of Indo-Pacific beads will lead to further understanding of the early trade communication along the Maritime Silk Route.