Over the past few decades, several new analytical techniques have been used to determine the composition and the likely production centers of glass beads found at archaeological sites around the world. Made since antiquity, glass beads are important artifacts which can provide much more information than their small size suggests. This article reviews the most common analytical techniques used to study glass beads - optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), x-ray fluorescence (XRF), instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA), laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), and Raman spectroscopy - and discusses their potential, limitations, and what results may be expected.
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.
Bonneau, Adelphine; Moreau, Jean-François; and Hancock, Ron G.V.
"Archaeometrical Analysis of Glass Beads: Potential, Limitations, and Results."
BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers
26: 35-46. Available at: