Group of 105 beads from the Cirebon shipwreck
10th century
Object Name: Beads
Period: 10th century
Date: 970 CE
Provenance: East Africa, Sri Lanka
Dimensions: 0.7 x 29 x 26 cm,weight:70g
Medium: cornelian,glass,shell
Registration Number: QM.2017.0873
These beads were found together in the 10th-century Cirebon shipwreck. Most of them are made from semi-precious stones, mainly chalcedony, which includes carnelian (orange) and agate (banded). They vary in colour from cream to orange to grey, some transparent and others opaque. They are roughly circular in form, generally with a concave depression around the hole openings due to the drilling process.

Three of the beads are of dark brown glass, one of which may be an ‘eye bead’ (decorated with dots). Rather than having holes drilled through them, they were made using the winding technique. This involved wrapping them around a rod while the glass was molten. Two further beads in the group are made from shell.
Early Islamic Period 622 – 1000 CE

In 628 CE, the inhabitants of the administrative district of Al Hajar, which included the geographical area of present-day Bahrain, al-Hasa in eastern Saudi Arabia and Qatar, joined the new religion of Islam. The territory of Qatar was occupied mainly by two tribal groups, the Tamim and the Abd al-Qays.

During the early Abbasid period Qatar was famous, even at the court of Baghdad, for its red-dyed woollen coats, horse breeding and pearls. The entire population of the region benefited greatly from the maritime traffic passing through the Gulf, from Basra to China via India and Southeast Asia, as demonstrated by the large number of archaeological sites particularly in the northern region of Qatar.
In 2003 a shipwreck was discovered 90 nautical miles (160 kilometres) off the coast of Cirebon, a port city in Indonesia. Referred to now as the Cirebon shipwreck, it had been lost in the Java Sea for over 1000 years. The wreck was found by local fishermen whose nets caught some of the Chinese ceramics originally onboard. Subsequently, the wreck was excavated by archaeologists in 2004-2005, yielding thousands of pieces of glassware, jewellery, ceramics and various trinkets.

Half of the findings have been acquired by Qatar Museums and will feed into ongoing research into 10th-century trade routes between the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The ship’s final voyage can be traced back to 970 CE based on copper coins from the Chinese kingdom of Nan Han (917-971 CE) that were onboard. It is believed the ship was engaged in long coastal voyages from China to the Middle East, via Southeast Asia and India.
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