Date: 1st century BCE-1st century CE
Country/Culture: Roman Empire, Eastern Mediterranean
Dimensions: 5/8 × 1/2 in. diameter(1.6 × 1.3 cm)
Classification: Decorative Arts, Glass
Credit Line: Gift of Neva M. Petersen. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
The earliest beads were made about 4000 B.C. from stone or clay, utilizing a glass-like material as glaze. The earliest objects made entirely of glass were beads produced in approximately 2500 B.C. with decorative patterns of stripes and spots. Head and face beads, popular trade items as early as 600 B.C., were probably produced in Carthage. They were widely distributed primarily as religious amulets by the Phoenicians, the leading traders and navigators of the time. The beads were believed to have the power to ward off evil or ensure fertility.