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Eighteenth-Century Glass Beads from the English Slaving Fort at Bunce Island, Sierra Leone


Karlis Karklins

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While countless tons of European glass beads flowed into West Africa over the centuries, there is still relatively little information concerning what specific nations were importing over time. It was therefore of great interest to learn about two collections of beads surface collected at the site of a British slaving fort that operated on Bunce Island in the Sierra Leone estuary of coastal Sierra Leone from the late 17th to the early 19th century. Although it is impossible to assign the beads to a specific period in the fort's history, it is clear that they are of 18th-century origin and were part of the goods traded by the British. The present study describes the small but diverse collection of beads and places them in historical context.

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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.

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