Article Title

Peake, Wampum, or Sewant? An Analysis of Shell Bead Terminology in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake

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Beads and the terminology used to describe them provide a powerful look into the colonial relationships negotiated by both Indigenous groups and European settlers. Peake, wampum, and sewant are terms used by both groups to describe tubular white or purple shell beads that developed as a result of colonial interactions between them. This paper uses 17th- and 18th-century documents from Virginia and Maryland to examine the contexts in which bead terminology shifted throughout the region over time. In examining these shifts from the Chesapeake vernacular, this paper provides another avenue by which to understand not only how people used beads to negotiate colonial relationships, but also to demonstrate who was building relationships with whom and the effects of those relationships.

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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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