An ancient bead is a document from the past—a message in a bottle—written in some lost symbolic language. Archaeologists try to understand that language by integrating scientific and technological approaches with the social, economic, political, and symbolic/ religious context in which the bead was found. As an example, we use Korean National Treasure 634 (NT634), a dark blue glass bead adorned with mosaic decorations of a bird, a flowering tree, and a human face, found in a 5th-6th century Korean tomb. This bead suggests its meaning by how and where it was made, and what its images may represent.
The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.
Lankton, James W. and Bernbaum, Marjorie
"An Archaeological Approach to Understanding the Meaning of Beads Using the Example of Korean National Treasure 634, A Bead from a 5th/6th-Century Royal Silla Tomb."
BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers
19: 32-41. Available at: