The ancient Kingdom of Kongo originated in Central Africa in the 14th century. In the 15th century, the Portuguese organized tight contacts with the Bakongo. From then on European goods gained new significance in the local culture and even found their way into funerary rites. Among the most important grave goods in the Kingdom of Kongo were shell and glass beads. They occur in many tombs and symbolize wealth, status, or femininity. At the burial site of Kindoki, linked with the former capital of Kongo's Nsundi province, a great number of shell and glass beads were found together with symbols of power in tombs attributed to the first half of the 19th century. Determining the origin of these beads and their use in the Kongo Kingdom leads to interesting insights into the social and economic organization of the old Bakongo society, their beliefs, and the symbolic meaning of the beads.
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.
Verhaeghe, Charlotte; Clist, Bernard-Olivier; and Fontaine, Chantal
"Shell and Glass Beads from the Tombs of Kindoki, Mbanza Nsundi, Lower Congo."
BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers
26: 23-34. Available at: