Vikings made beads from Roman mosaics

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from Aarhus University and the City Museum of Ribe, Denmark have reconstructed the entire bead-making process used by the Vikings in the 8th century.

It turned out that the beads were made from multi-colored Roman mosaics. The production was simple, but economical and precise.

Ribe (now in Denmark) was an important trading center during the Viking Age. At the beginning of the 8th century, a large market was founded on the northern bank of the Ribe River, where merchants and artisans flocked from all over Europe. It produced and sold brooches, buckles for suits, combs and colored glass beads.

In the early Middle Ages, glass became a scarce commodity, so colored glass cubes called tesserae were torn from mosaics in Roman and Byzantine temples, palaces, and baths, transported north, and sold in shopping malls such as Ribe. There, glass cubes were melted and made into beads.

Until now, archaeologists assumed that bead makers used opaque white mosaic as raw material to produce white opaque beads.

The problem is that such mosaics are quite rare in Roman buildings, and it is not clear why the Vikings have so many frosted beads. Now that scientists from Aarhus University and the Ribe Museum have managed to completely restore the whole process, it turned out that the masters did not do it that way.

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Glass cubes on the left – finished beads on the right

The chemical composition of white Viking beads from one of the first workshops showed that glassblowers found an economical way to make beads.

First, they crushed gilded transparent glass cubes, and then melted them at a low temperature, stirring during the melting process. Air bubbles fell into the molten glass, and it became dull.

Finally, molten glass was wrapped around an iron rod to form a ball with a hole. The result was opaque white beads, created quickly and using a minimum of resources.

But before melting the glass, the craftsmen carefully removed the thin gold coating from the surface of the mosaic cube. Scientists have found trace amounts of gold in the beads themselves.

Masters made not only matte beads, but also blue transparent ones. They were obtained using approximately the same technology, but from glass cubes of different colors.

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Melted Roman glass cubes containing traces of gold


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