Glass Trade Beads from Reese Bay, Unalaska Island: Spatial and Temporal Patterns

Barbara E. Bundy, Allen P. McCartney and Douglas W. Veltre


Unalaska History and Archaeology Project researchers excavated several thousand glass trade beads from an Aleutian longhouse at the Reese Bay site on Unalaska Island, Alaska. This paper provides a description of the beads, a discussion of their use by Russian explorers and Alaska Natives, and an analysis of the horizontal and vertical distribution of the beads within the longhouse. Comparison to other Alaskan sites revealed that the composition of the Reese Bay trade bead assemblage is consistent with occupation during the early Russian period. Several factors, both behavioral and depositional, created and affected the spatial patterning of the beads within the site: roof fall from the dismantling of the longhouse superstructure; periodic housecleaning by the residents of the longhouse; bead working techniques and location preferences; and changing status relationships within the longhouse. The spatial and temporal patterning of the glass trade beads from the Reese Bay site provides insight into the lives of the inhabitants.

  • Barbara E. Bundy, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon Eugene, Oregon 97403

  • Allen P. McCartney, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701

  • Douglas W. Veltre, Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska 99508