The key to any good research is a solid backbone from which to build your ideas. For my research on glass beads, I built a substantial database with information about each individual bead. I then used this to explore regional trends.
Building the database took hours and hours of time. I was lucky in that our university had an excellent collection of site reports for excavations in Britain. I literally sat in the university library going through entire journal runs, looking at every monograph, and requesting or purchasing reports that weren’t available in the library. Sometimes, when I got bored of sitting in the library, I would check out stacks and stacks of books and take them to my office to read them (I think to the amusement of my office-mates!). Not only did I record every bead from Iron Age and Roman period contexts, but I also recorded every instance of excavation at an Iron Age and/or Roman period site even if there were no glass beads. “Why on earth would you do this?” you may ask…. I asked this myself sometimes, but I thought it was important because I wanted to be able to say that there were x number of excavations in each study regions and glass beads were only found at y of them. It’s a common thought that Iron Age glass beads were rare, but there was no data to back this claim up!
Anyways…I’m getting off topic…
I also built my database up by visiting Historic Environment Record (HER) offices, accessing digital excavation reports through the Archaeology Data Service, and of course by visiting museums. I tried to measure as many individual beads as possible, even where this data was already published, for consistency. Sometimes reports stated that x number of beads were found and they measured between y and z. I wanted to be able to say the size of each bead, so that I could make scatter plot graphs that expressed diameter versus height.
All of this data collecting resulted in three main tables of data that I worked with: one that recorded excavated sites, one that recorded data about beads, and one that recorded data about other objects of personal adornment. This data accompanies the book published with Archaeopress, but you can also download it from the Resources page on this website. I hope that people will find it to be useful. If anyone has any question about the data, please send me a question and I’ll do my best to answer!