Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Venetian Blue Beads Found in Alaska Predate Arrival of Columbus


February 18, 2021

Glass beads made in Venice and found in Alaska by archaeologists. The findings were published in a January 2021 paper called "A Precolumbian Presence of Venetian Glass Trade Beads in Arctic Alaska," by Michael Kunz and Robin Mills. (Photo courtesy the journal American Antiquity.)

Venetian glass beads from Italy archeologists uncovered along an old trading route in the Alaskan Arctic indicate what the Alaska Native Iñupiat, who have occupied the land since time immemorial, have always known: their existence long predated Christopher Columbus's "discovery" of America.

Arctic archeologists Mike Kunz and Robert Mills last month published a study on the beads they in part helped excavate and analyze from three different sites in the Brooks Range of the Alaskan Arctic. Though the beads were recovered throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 2000s, technology was not yet able to clearly timestamp the artifacts.

Recently, using carbon dating technology, plant fibers surrounding the buried beads told the scientists the relics arrived in Alaska sometime between 1440 and 1480, at least a decade before Columbus made landfall in what is now the Bahamas. Further study of the craftsmanship of Venetian glassmaking in that time period ascribed the type of beads –– pea-sized, blue glass balls –– to Venice, Italy.


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