These beads were found at Kilmainham, near Dublin, about 1847, as part of a railway expansion project. Artifacts found together, often did not stay together, and recordkeeping was poor to non-existent. The workers who were digging may have been tempted to keep some items, and the supervisors were primarily interested in the most valuable metal artefacts. (So you know how much attention was paid to the textiles.) However, this group of beads was kept together with the metalwork, permitting a reasonably accurate date.These items are located together at the Royal Irish Academy’s collection in the (Irish) National Museum. (Unfortunately, they don’t have much digitized on their website.)

kilmainham-graphic

The one I want to look at is bead B –

b – Roped variety, ground color being green and ropes shaded with white threads. Roped beads have been considered characteristic of Ireland. – Armstrong

Margaret Guido concludes that these beads date approx. 840-900, and estimates use well into the 10th century. She says,

‘String’ bead, almost certainly Irish origin. Characterized by many variations, finely twisted glass, frequently tripartite in form with a central decoration (and often spirals) and a twisted ‘collar’ (generally blue and white) at each end. Appears they originated in Ireland before the Viking period, and lingered on into the 9th century.- Guido

By careful examination of the archaeological illustration, this bead appears to have the following characteristics.  Height 21mm, base bead diameter 9mm, hole diameter 4mm. 6 ropes, 3 thicker on the left end, 3 thicker on the right, indicative of where the rope attachment begins and ends. Bichrome rod may all be of the same twist, (drawing is uncertain). Rod is 3-5mm thick..

Guido A neglected Viking burial with beads from Kilmainham, Dublin, discovered in 1847 C.S. Briggs with M. Guido and A. Walsh, Medieval Archaeology, Vol. 29 (1985), pp. 94-108. (You will need to log in at the Archaeological Data Service before trying this link to the index for that volume.

Armstong Two Irish Finds of Glass Beads of the Viking Period E.C.R. Armstrong, Man, Vol. 21 (May, 1921), pp. 71-73.] Stable URL:  (You will need to open a new account, and then can read online, or if you have access to a participating library you can access this at a university, to avoid paying for the article.)

Visual reference bead is Blue glass barrel-shaped bead, blue and white collar at each end and vertical ribs. 1890,0215.9AN1251778001 from the British Museum.

 

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