- Museum number
Thirteen glass beads strung on modern wire: (a)-(c) three blue spheroid beads, decorated with three rows of three white circles or eyes; (d) clear and opaque white marbled spheroid bead, decorated with two rows of three circles of rust and white with blue central eyes; (e)-(h) four small plain blue spheroid beads; (i)-(m) five larger plain blue spheroid beads.
- Curator's comments
- Stead and Rigby 1999
Findspot: Marson (Marne)
Morel's report on the excavations at Marson was read at the Sorbonne on 4 April 1874 and again at Châlons-sur-Marne on 27 October 1874. His publication (Morel, L., 1874a, La découverte de sépultures gauloises au territoire de Marson, ‘Mémoires de la société d’agriculture, commerce, sciences et arts du department de la Marne’ (1873-4), 179-94.), virtually identical to the version in Morel, L., 1898, ‘La Champagne souterraine’ Reims, 5-20, is accompanied by the first six plates of the ‘Album’.
(b)'La voie de Lépine'
A huge cemetery at the top of and on the slopes of a hill, extending for almost a kilometre. Morel excavated here between April 1873 and February 1874 and found about 200 burials scattered over about a kilometre, sometimes in groups of four or five. Some graves held more than one skeleton, with two or three burials superimposed, or two side by side. Most graves were orientated west-east, from 1 m to 1.5 m deep, and filled with terre noire, and almost half of them had been disturbed previously. Smith, R.A., 1925, ‘A guide to the antiquities of the Early Iron Age’ (second edition), London, 64-5.
Grave 25: A grave group found by a local man about 1870. The grave contained ML.1538, ML.1545, ML.1546, ML.1535 and ML.1536.
Context: Beads and Amulets
There are beads in amber, coral, bone and glass in the Morel Collection, and where the details have been recorded, they are typically found in the graves of girls and women. They were found singly or in groups, separate - possibly because the original organic string had disintegrated - or strung onto bronze wire, fine strip, bangles or torcs. One bone amulet bears traces of having been threaded onto iron strip, a fairly common practice; there are several examples in other collections from La Tène cemeteries in Champagne, e.g. Beine ‘l’Argentelle’ grave 9 where they were used for pendants strung on a torc.
Due to the limitations on shape imposed by the techniques of working the different materials, the beads have first been divided by material before the shapes were classified.
Glass: Glass beads may have been produced before 2000 BC in southern France, while highly coloured moulded vessels were common around the Mediterranean throughout the Bronze Age (Ambert, P., and Barge-Mahieu, 1989 Essai sur les perles en verre antérieures à l’Age du fer en Languedoc et en Provence, in M. Feugère, ‘Le Verre préromain en Europe occidentale’, Montagnac, 7-18). Glass was made into vivid, iridescent and permanent colours to produce otherwise unobtainable decorative effects and even transmitting coloured light. In such circumstances it is not surprising that 'eye motifs', where a white glass rim or 'iris' encircled a round blue 'pupil', were popular.
There are almost 200 glass beads, 150 of which are tiny plain mini-loops in dark blue, the remainder are more typical in size. Morel lists more which cannot be equated with any unprovenanced beads in the collection. There were 48 in a necklace of glass and amber beads in Bergères-les-Vertus b, 80 plain and one decorated 'eye' bead in Courtisols b grave 8 and 15 small plain blue beads in grave 10; if the small beads were mini-rings then this could be ML.2191. At Somme-Suippe 15 beads of blue glass were found with 15 rings forming either a necklace or a belt.
All but eight of the surviving beads are translucent blue, the exceptions are opaque yellow or opaque and clear white mixed to produce a marbled effect. In all, six are decorated with blue and white 'eyes', six with a running scroll and one with spirals. Such beads first appear in burials early in the fifth century BC at Villeneuve-Renneville graves 35 and 56 and Saint-Sulpice, Vaud, Switzerland (Kaenel, G., and Müller, F., 1991, The Swiss plateau, in S. Moscatic, ed., ‘The Celts’, Milan, 253). Necklaces occur in burials at Arras, Cowlam, Danes Graves and Garton Slack, east Yorkshire (Stead 1979, fig. 31).
Blue, yellow and white were produced by adding tin or antimony to the silica of the frit and melting it in an oxidizing atmosphere (Appendix 2, Table 7).
Bead shapes: Glass 2
Spheroid beads, diameter greater than thickness. Plain and decorated examples.
The most common shape for plain and decorated beads. The size range is concentrated between 11 and 14 mm in diameter, with the equivalent thickness 8 to 11 mm. The translucent colours are cobalt blue, blue/black and white, the opaque are white and yellow; decorated types in blue glass are limited to this shape.
Context also beads strung on modern wire.
Bibliography: Morel, L., 1898, ‘La Champagne souterraine’ Reims, pl. 3, fig. 16. Found in a female grave apparently with ML.1536 but no details of the context given in the text (p. 16). The original illustration shows four blue decorated and ten plain threaded onto a wire with simple looped ends which is described as brass wire in the text and could be the current modern wire.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2016 11 Mar-25 Sep, Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, 'Celts'
2015-2016 24 Sep-31 Jan, London, BM, G30, 'Celts: Art and Identity'
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number