Overlooked Imports: Carnelian Beads in the Korean Peninsula

Date
2019-04-09
Authors
Glover, Lauren
Kenoyer, J.M.
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Abstract
Analyses of a sample of 68 carnelian and agate beads from Korea's late Proto-Three Kingdoms and Three Kingdoms period (c.e. 100–668) provide evidence for long-distance exchange with South Asia. Three Kingdoms period elites were rejecting locally made stone beads made of local materials for stone beads obtained from long distance trade and made of non-local materials. Some of these beads may also be derived from South, Central, or Southeast Asia as well as from regions of modern China or Mongolia. The beads were recovered from burials at sites associated with the Paekche (RR: Baekje), Kaya (RR: Gaya), and Silla cultural traditions. There have been no local bead workshops found during the Three Kingdoms period and the carnelian beads were manufactured using different drilling technologies compared to earlier Korean drilling. Faceted hexagonal, spherical, and irregularly shaped carnelian beads were perforated using diamond drills, a technology originally developed in South Asia ca. 600 b.c.e. Quantitative analyses of drill hole size and overall size and shape of the beads points to multiple workshops supplying the imported beads. The distribution patterns of the beads in different polities may reflect changes in trade networks over time as well as stylistic choices of bead shapes used as a means of differentiating specific groups or individuals. Evidence for string wear and external weathering indicate that some beads were used for long periods of time enroute to Korea or in Korea itself before burial in mortuary contexts.
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stone beads,, drilling,, carnelian, South Asia, Korea, Three Kingdoms period
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