Investigation of Iron Age north-eastern Scottish glass beads using element analysis with LA-ICP-MS

Martina Bertini, Andrew Shortland, Karen Milek, Eva M Krupp

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Class 13 and 14 Iron Age Scottish glass beads are a group of highly decorated beads of British origin or design, dating indicatively to the 1st and 2nd century AD and typically found in Aberdeenshire and Moray district (Guido, 1978, 85e9). Their distinctive stylistic characteristics and geographical segregation renders them ideal for the investigation of whether the glasses employed in their manufacture were imported rather than produced locally, and for the assessment of the technology used in the production of the deep colours. Studies performed in the 1980s on different specimens pertaining to the same Classes (Henderson, 1982) showed compositional characteristics differing from Iron Age southern British beads, suggesting a different source of glass for their manufacture. Here, a set of 19 beads which was never investigated before was analysed for 32 major, minor and trace elements using Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). The sample set shows good homogeneity in major and minor element composition, indicating the use of imported natron glass, with standardized composition typical of Roman glass of the period, also reflected in the recipes used for colouration. Evidence for the use of cullet and waste glass was found, which, along with the particularity of the design, suggests a local origin of the beads and possible production by native glassworkers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2750-2766
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number10
Early online date24 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

This paper represents part of the PhD dissertation of Martina Bertini, who worked under the supervision of Eva Krupp (Department of Archaeology) and Karen Milek (Department of Archaeology), University of Aberdeen.


  • Iron age Scotland
  • beads
  • glass
  • colour recipes
  • provenance
  • ancient glass
  • Roman glass
  • PIXE spectrometry
  • mass-spectrometry
  • Britain
  • technologies
  • recipes
  • sites


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