Discovery In Alaska Of Venetian Glass Beads That Arrived In America Before Christopher Columbus

The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus is one of those historical events for which a quick mention is enough and virtually everyone already knows what we are talking about.

1492, crossing the Atlantic to the “Indies” aboard the famous caravels: the context is clear. However, even if it is taken for granted that this is how the continent was discovered, it has been established that the first Europeans to set foot in America were the Vikings, evidently unaware that they were in a ” new world”. After them but before Christopher Columbus, people who had been in Italy would have had contacts or exchanges with locals. How do we know? Thanks to fascinating precious objects found in Alaska.


image credit: American Antiquity – University of Alaska Fairbanks

This discovery is one of those that make you want to rewrite the history books, or at least that can, suddenly, call into question certainties and data that we would never question. Long before the start of trade with the Americas, and before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, valuable European products were already circulating on the continent. What is it about? From Venetian Murano glass beads, dating from the period between 1440 and 1480.

They are the oldest European goods to arrive and discover in America. The natives of the northern lands had therefore already had contact with the peoples of the old continent decades before Columbus discovered him. Using very precise carbon dating and spectrometry techniques, archaeologists have discovered the period to which they date.


image credit: American Antiquity – University of Alaska Fairbanks

When the pearls were made, and when they first arrived in America, Europeans just didn’t know the continent existed. So how did they get there? And above all, who brought them there? With these questions, researchers Michael Kunz and Robin Mills attempt to shed light on their history, explaining in their studies all possible hypotheses about them.

One of the most credited theses seems to be the one which attributes the presence of pearls in Alaska to traders who could have followed the Silk Road , and therefore pass through Siberia and cross the Bering Strait. These are not the first similar finds in the Alaskan territories, but unlike in the past, archaeologists today have much more precise tools to establish the dating of finds.


image credit: Pixnio – Not the actual photo

It is therefore a fact that these objects represent a certain proof of the links between Europe and America which predate Christopher Columbus and colonialism. In addition to the fascinating pearls, the findings also included other objects – probably jewelry – just as surprising because of their origins.

It is fascinating and intriguing to think of historical conceptions different from those that we have all been used to studying and knowing. You really wonder how these objects got there, and who brought them. If they could speak, they would certainly have a compelling story to tell …

Source used:
University of Alaska Fairbanks

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