Unwinding the spiral: Discovering the manufacturing method of Iron Age Scottish glass beads

Martina Bertini*, Rajmund Mokso, Eva M. Krupp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Spiral decorated Iron Age Scottish glass beads are a group of highly decorated objects about which very little is known. Despite considerable debate in the past, their technical complexity and elaborate design have always hindered the understanding of their method of production. The innovative application of X-ray micro-computed-tomography (μCT), with synchrotron light, rendered detailed information of the internal structure of selected artefacts, allowing for the investigation of features relating to manufacture. The 3D imaging not only permitted the identification of characteristic features and markings typical of specific low temperature glass-working techniques, but also added to the evidence for local manufacture and allowed conclusions to be drawn on the pyro-technological development of the ancient communities that produced them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-266
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Early online date18 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

M.B. is grateful for the PhD funding provided by the College of Physical Science of the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. Additional financial support for the analysis at the Swiss Light Source (PSI) was provided by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme: Research Infrastructures, and by Trace Element Speciation LAboratory (TESLA, University of Aberdeen). The authors are indebted to Mr N. Curtis, Head of Museums and Ms M.M. Wright, former Senior Curator (Conservation), University of Aberdeen Museums (Aberdeen), and to Dr Fraser Hunter, Head of Later Prehistory and Early History at the National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh) for loaning their collections for analysis and for the fruitful discussion and support. The help and support of Prof. J.A. Anderson and Dr A. Ball during the editing of this manuscript are greatly appreciated.


  • Ancient glass beads
  • Ancient pyrotechnologies
  • Glass technology
  • Synchrotron light
  • X-ray microtomography


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