Alexis Jordan


The study of beads in archaeological contexts is a significant part of the reconstruction of material culture, used for tracing trade contacts, and in the study of ornament as a visual language (Cohn 1959: 77). As portable pieces that can be sourced and serve as stylistic, temporal, and social markers, beads reflect larger patterns of interaction and communication during periods characterized by significant change and increasing mobility. In the Irish Iron Age, the systematic study of artifact types has begun to clarify dating and questions of cultural contact. Glass objects, most commonly in the form of beads, are one such marker. Beads appear in multiple archaeological contexts across the island throughout this time period and have only been summarily discussed (e.g. Guido 1978; Henderson 1988b; B. Raftery 1972).

The information presented here is part of my master’s thesis in which I synthesized all evidence for Irish Iron Age glass to examine the characteristics, variability, and distribution of glass on the island. This article will discuss the archaeological evidence regarding indigenous glass production in Ireland during the Iron Age. Particular emphasis will be placed upon the glass toggle, a form that is likely unique to the island and indicative of glass production here.