Home / Funny / Viral / Glass Venetian Beads Discovered In Alaska Set To Be There Before Columbus


There are many problematic—and sometimes downright false—narratives in history. For instance, if one can even "discover" places where millions of people already reside, Columbus did not discover America. It is not even accepted that Columbus was the first European to set foot on the continent. As early as 1000 CE, Norse Viking settlements have been found in Newfoundland, according to archaeological evidence. Modern history textbooks no longer stick to the cliches of Europe discovering the Americas; instead, fascinating new archaeological discoveries confirm the existence of extensive global trade networks that existed long before Columbus arrived in 1492.

Alaskan archaeological sites have yielded beads made of Venetian glass dating to the mid-15th century, according to a recent report published in the journal American Antiquity. Three Late Prehistoric Eskimo sites within the Arctic Circle were found to have Venetian blue glass "trade beads," according to a paper co-authored by Michael L. Kunz and Robin O. Mills. Throughout the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, European traders in the Atlantic region regularly used glass beads known as trade beads. Because glass was not available to Native Americans, the beads were valued as valuable trade goods.

Many of these beads, also referred to as Murano glass, were made in Venice, the European centre of glassmaking. Although the beads' discovery thrilled the researchers, it took scientific testing to determine their true significance. 

The beads were discovered with other objects, including jewellery made of copper. A single object discovered within the object cache was twine composed of an organic substance that appeared to be willow bark. This twine presented a special chance. Although prior researchers lacked the technology to precisely date organic material, they were aware of beads found at the locations decades before the researchers' arrival. Accelerator mass spectrometry carbon dating was used to test the recently discovered twine. By measuring the rate of radioactive carbon-14 decay, carbon dating determines the age of an organic object. The tested twine produced startling results: it most likely wrapped the jewellery between 1440 and 1480. 

Given that Columbus did not reach the Bahamas until 1492, this discovery suggested that Europe and the Americas had a prior trading relationship. West of the Rocky Mountains, the beads are the only ones of their kind. "The most likely route these beads travelled from Europe to northwestern Alaska is across Eurasia and over the Bering Strait," the paper states, based on this fact and their early date. The likely route taken by the beads from Venice to Alaska is outlined in a statement from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Late Byzantine and early Ottoman traders, who transported European goods eastward, were common trading partners for Italian merchants operating in the late medieval Mediterranean. From there, products made their way in both directions along the well-known Silk Road, an antiquated trade route connecting East Asia and the Mediterranean. After passing through traders to the people of what is now Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, a federal subject area of Russia, the beads most likely travelled by caravan towards China. The beads had to have travelled a little over 50 miles by boat to cross the Bering Strait from this point.

More research is necessary to fully understand the Venetian glass beads' journey from Venice to Alaska, which suggests trade and travel between Europe and America as well as across the Bering Strait. The finding also refutes stories of "discovering" a remote continent in America.  

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