This article provides a typological and interpretive analysis of 3968 beads unearthed at Amwathoya, a late 19 th -century Giriama homestead site in Kenya’s central coastal hinterland. These beads are predominantly imported glass specimens, and most were recovered from a single cache. The typological analysis of Amwathoya’s assemblage draws on both historical bead terms from 19 th -century Eastern Africa and broader classificatory schemes developed by archaeologists in other world areas. Smaller glass bead assemblages from two nearby contemporaneous settlements are also examined for comparative purposes. The interpretive analysis of Amwathoya’s beads focuses on such ornaments’ potential role in the expression of cultural and gendered identities; the use of locally produced shell beads in divination and healing practices is also explored.
Journal of African Archaeology – Brill
Published: Oct 25, 2012
Keywords: Historical archaeology; beads; Kenya; Giriama; trade; identity
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