Article Title

The Blue Beads of St. Eustatius: New Perspectives from Archaeology and Oral History




The blue beads of St. Eustatius are a famous symbol of the island’s heritage, evoking both positive and negative emotional responses in local stakeholders. Archaeologists often encounter oral historical accounts to explain the functions of the blue beads in colonial society. Until now, these accounts have not been thoroughly recorded, investigated, or integrated with other sources of data. Oral historical interviews conducted in 2016 provide information on the role of the blue beads in enslaved and free communities. We discuss these findings and their relation to archaeological evidence on the island as well as elsewhere in the Americas and West Africa. Such involvement of local people in the interpretation of their own heritage encourages the decolonization of archaeology, and we hope that this approach will become standard throughout the Caribbean region.

Publisher Information

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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