Fragments from SHM 8315 and some pictures of Birka Beads.

Yesterday I spent another day in the basement of SHM, I have mostly taken oversight pictures and a lot of measurements that may not be to interesting for anybody else at this stage; however I did see some other things that may be noteworthy.
First; we found those missing fragments from Go Lye (the place on Gotland from my last visit). They have their own little box and are registered as another object.

They are quite extraordinary and we can start by saying that they are fragments of at least three beads, not two.

SHM 8315, Deteriorated core of a chequered mosaic bead.

The first bead-individual is the core of a mosaic bead, it has had a chequered pattern but all but the emerald green parts have deteriorated. Since this bead is split we can see the cross-section, and it seems the mosaic has been applied to a core of the same emerald glass. 

This brings us to the next bead. In the previous beads from this site we have seen examples where the mosaic sheet is applied to a core of a different colour.

From SHM 8315, framentary outer layer of a bead with mosaic decoration. The core may have been of incompatible glass and have not been found.

That is most probably what our next two beads have had at one point. The cores do not seem to have been found, but it is an old find from a ditch-digger so that is not strange.

The last fragmented bead is quite similar but larger and more colorful.

From SHM 8315, framentary outer layer of a bead with mosaic decoration. Note the thin wall, about 1-2 mm.

The mosaic beads are made from a premade mosaic sheet that is wrapped around the mandrel. (usually without a core underneath)  The idea to use a core of solid glass is attractive since any solid colour is cheaper in labour than the mosaic sheet. A modern bead maker may do this with clear (the act of clear-core) and historical beadmakers sometimes used clear cored rods when working in some colors (mostly Red (O) ). However, in this case the bead has either not fused enough or the core was made in an incompatible glass. (if you are confused by that check this page about COE). What has been found is the shell-like mosaic layer of the bead. This shell is surprisingly thin, and one must reflect if it was fused in a closed mould since it is thinner than glass will usually form in a full fuse. (surface tension will usually make glass attempt to become a thickness of about 4 mm)

I also took a few pictures of some beads from Birka. They are not part of my research right now but they are interesting and happened to pass by me by pure coincidence.

A few beads from Birka grave 860. Glass, mountain crystal, amber and Lapis Lazuli.

This is a small group of beads from Birka grave 860 (the Bj on the little note stands or Björkö, the island where Birka was located) One bead is made from mountain crystal (the larger of the clear ones) one is of amber (the top brownish one) and the cuboctahedrical one is made from Lapis Lazuli. They are interesting since stone beads are not very common in the Viking period (usually less than 5 % of the total amount of beads on a site). The Lapis ones have often been mistaken for glass since there is a lot of blue cuboctahedrical glass beads in the Vendel and early Viking period.

Birka grave 642, microbeads and one segmented bead. All made from drawn tubes. Centimeter scale at the bottom.

Then we have this little group from Birka grave 642. The green ones are cut-drawn microbeads (made from a blown tube) and a quite rare find, usually they slip through the digging methods, so we can’t quite be sure how common they were. I do however have a few deteriorated examples of similar beads from Britain in my masters so they are not to uncommon.

Beads from Birka grave 965, Lapis Lazuli (18), carnelian (2), one made from unidentified organic material, the rest glass, including one segmented foiled bead. In the little jar fragments of beads from glass and organic material.

And lastly these beads from Birka grave 965, its another quite interesting assemblage. I wont go into context since that is not part of my research at this stage, however, I will probably at some point go into the cuboctahedrical shape (here, again seen in Beads of Lapis Lazuli) and its connection to trade and payment in the Viking culture.

Closeup of the Zebra bead from Birka grave 965. It has lost one of its yellow endcaps but is still a very nice bead.


And then there was something else, an object that I want to be able to present more complete research about before tell that story. But it is a mosaic sheet. Most probably material for the making of beads similar to these fragments from Lye, rather than a complete object in itself. This is an object type that I knew must have existed but had never seen an example of in the material and that is very interesting.

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A New Beginning…

This is in one way my first real post, because I have an idea about doing it a bit more regularly, but who knows if I will follow through on that. We will see I guess.

I should say something about who I am, but I want to get going with more important issues so I will keep it Very short.

I am Moa Råhlander, I’m a PhD student in the Archaeology department at Stockholm University and I am going to spend a few years studying beads, primarily glass beads from the first millennium in Scandinavia. My goal, eventually is to create a new typology and at this time I am focused on Gotland. My plan with this is to share some of my progress and the items I have worked with. It will be a way for me to keep a bit of a diary, and hopefully I will be a bit of a resource for anyone interested in beads from prehistoric Scandinavia.

Most of the beads I work with is barely dated, so there is no good point in asking me for a specific dating, hopefully that will be something we can say when these years are done and I present my thesis… until then, these items can only with certainty be called ”Prehistoric”. Some are probably from the roman period, even if they end up with viking or even early middle age items.

Johan Callmer have recommended me a few groups of bead from Gotland to start with and I will share some of these beads here.

The first group I will show you is SHM 8315, from Lye shire in Lilla Rone. I want to stress that these beads have been strung in the museum. They have not been found strung, and might not even come from the same grave, It might not even be a grave.


This is a notation from 1888 in the archive of Stockholm History museum. It tells about the museum acquiring two silver arm rings, ten silver beads, five silver pendants, 3 mountain crystal balls with silver fittings, 11 mountain crystal pendants with silver fittings, 51 beads of amber, mosaic, glass. The objects was found by A. Sjösten when digging a ditch, bought for 150 kronor. Another notation says that no marking indicating a grave had been seen.


The Balls and Pendants of mountain crystal and silver are quite famous and have become almost a symbol of the Viking Period of Gotland. However, I will not talk much about them since they are not beads, but you can find them Here in the museums database.

Beads (not a necklace, deposit find) from SHM 8315 Lye sn, Gotland Sweden

This is a quite strange group of beads, there are 49 of them. Two are missing. However, in the B catalogue, where the items are decribed, it is mentioned that two of the mosaic beads are broken (“81. Five pieces of two mosaic beads”)  so they might have gotten lost along the way. They have spent a 130 years in a basement, and its very possible those fragments are still there, just that I have not yet had the opportunity to see them.

The stringing of beads without context is a bit problematic. For the researcher it may be a problem of access, some measurements, such as length and weigth might get a bit obscured. For the viewer who have no context, it might seem to be a necklace which we cannot know. The advantage is simple, there is less risk of the beads getting lost.

So, to present a few of these beads as individuals, ( I better do it now, there will be little time for things like that later)

Bead 19 in SHM 8315 Lye sn, Lilla Rone. This is the Largest of the glass beads, it a mosaic bead on a Yellow (O) ( The O stands for Opaque here. There is also T for Translucent or S-T for semi translucent, used mostly for opalino glass). This is not a common size, its actually almost monstrous (28,2 mm ø) next to other beads of the Viking age.

Since this is a rare bead in some ways, I took a short video of it so it can be seen from all sides.

And, since I have shown this one, I should show the other big mosaic. They are probably related since they share one type of murine, the red-white and blue square. The spirals are then shared with several of the other mosaics in this find. (Like bead 28 Below).

Bead 23 in SHM 8315 Lye sn, Lilla Rone. Mosaic masterpiece… so perfect it is almost boring :).


Bead 28 SHM 8315 Lye sn, Lilla Rone, The same spirals and square murrini as on bead 23. It also have a less preserved twin in bead 26.

Now we have seen some great mosaics, and this is a group with a large proportion of great mosaic beads… But there are a lot of interesting beads that are not mosaic. ( I just happen to be a bit stuck on mosaics right now since I’m trying to figure out a good way to describe and typologies them to make the work in front of me more time-efficient.

Beads 22-27 SHM 8315 Lye sn, Lilla Rone.

In the centre of this picture is bead 24, It is another large one and in the catalogue it is described as a mosaic imitating a knot. I am a bit uncertain if I would describe this as a mosaic (great work picking a non-mosaic here *sarcasm*). It is a strange being, since it may be made from glass pieces, technically making it a mosaic, but those glass pieces are not (as is the norm) murrini (slices of internally patterned glass-cane, including for example the subcategory of millefiori, if the pattern is floral). Mosaic beads of this period is also, usually made of only mosaic pieces, melted together as a sheet and wrapped around the mandrel. That it probably not the case here (or in bead 19, it has a Yellow (O) core underneath its sheet of murine.). But I’m unsure, I should check inside the hole next time.

Bead 5-1 SHM 8315 Lye sn, Lilla Rone.

A last group then, that really isn’t mosaic! These are beads 1-5, and they are all non mosaic. The top two (one you can only see the edge of but it’s almost the same as the second.) are light turquoise. They both have a bicolored belt, a line around the equator. The first ones belt is red and yellow with yellow in the center, the second is red and yellow with red in the centre. Bead 3 is a drawn bead, made from a striped cane (blue,white, red yellow) (these can be recognized because the stripes go into the holes on the sides.) Bead 4 looks similar but is made with two different bicolored stringers (this gives a similar look but the stripes does not go into the holes, and sometimes they overlap a little.) one in red and yellow and one in yellow and white.
Til next time.

Kind regards



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I have Survived the Gathering in Vegas!

I am finally back home after the ISGB Gathering 2018 in Vegas!

I say finally since I had a mishap and ended up staying longer than i would have chosen. However, the Gathering was great, I took courses in Borosilicate from Andy Pollack and Bandhu Dunham and bought a lot of glass and traded a lot of beads. It also gave me the idea to create a bead library on this webpage where I have started to upload pictures of the beads I acquired. I will have to add more, both from this gathering and the one I visited in Huston a few years back.’

The Fountain outside the Bellagio.

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A new step…

This is my first post in this (for me) new format… I feel i have finished many things lately and maybe that it is time to start something new… I have for a long time planned to switch from my old webpage to a new. My information have been outdated for a long time and it have felt like a huge task to create a new webpage for my craft and maybe even for my life but it is time to try.

My vision is a page not only to display and sell my craft but also share some useful resources for the SCA, such as dresspatterns and my archeological research into the field of glass beads in late iron age and Viking period in Scandinavia.

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