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Analyzing the fabrication and pattern of beadwork will give an archaeologist insight in time spent in production and on the effort put into that artefact. It may also give insight in the subsequent use of an object, through wear marks and repairs. When conducting beadwork analysis information needs to be gathered on several levels of the beadwork: the materials used, the pattern and the beading technique. And of course, the type of beads used in a beaded fabric need to be recognized and described. This will start with the use of a bead typology. The way in which this is done can be seen in the top image on this page. Several general typological descriptions of beads are available, two of which are the most important: the typology by Xia Nai and by Horace Beck (Classification and Nomenclature of Beads and Pendants). After this a more detailed description of all materials used needs to be made. Color description can be given with the Munsell Bead Color Book for bead researchers.

Much can be determined when the binding of the beadwork is still present, or partially preserved. Analyzing the fabrication and pattern of beadwork enables us also to gain insight in time spent in the production, on the effort put into the production of the object as well as its meaning and function. Wear, tear and repair marks as well as excavated context may be useful for interpreting the function and use of the artefact, and the intensity or rarity of use. Sex-related questions concerning the production process of Egyptian beadwork, for instance, are largely unanswered. Although in ancient Egyptian reliefs, only men are shown producing both beads and beadwork. The timing of beadwork and the way in which the string was cast off will reveal more insight in the rhythm of the work. Aspects like coarseness of the fabric, tightness of the construction will show the experience of the worker and the working pace. Many of these aspects of beadwork are insufficiently studied in archaeology, although at least in Egypt, there is an abundance of research material available. 


Lastly, it is important to realize that beadwork may (although of course limited) be studied without the actual beads present! Some examples are given at the left of this page. Sometimes the impressions of beads on an object may also be an indication of a beaded fabric. On the first image mummy wrappings can be seen that have changed color over time, except underneath the beads of the beaded net. And at the bottom image, the head of a statue can be seen where the impressions of a beaded headdress are the main traces of the beaded fabric. More on this object can be found here.

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