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Choice of Mixed Ancient Glass Nila and Koli Bead Strands, from the Sahara - Rita Okrent Collection (AT0856)

4 items in stock

Ancient mixed excavated nila bead strands with deep blue ancient glass koli beads from Timbuktu. These beads are estimated to be up to 1000 years old, though as these strands are mixed, there may be some antique beads mixed in that are not as old.

Rich blue, red and green hues.

Please let us know which strand you have selected via email ( or simply with a note at Checkout.

Strand lengths and bead sizes vary.

Nila beads are the small monochrome Islamic glass beads than can be found in colors ranging mostly from blue, green and white to yellow that were quite widespread in West Africa. They are also referred to as Indo-Pacific or Trade Winds beads, in reference to the winds that, for centuries, were used by the merchant ships bringing them from India. Large quantities have been found in  sites along the river banks of the Niger river in Mali. The word Nila came from the Sanskrit term for indigo.

As bead researcher and expert, Robert K. Liu , writes in Ornament Magazine: “The term Islamic Period Glass Beads is used, similarly to Roman Period Beads, to classify groups of ornaments from specific geographic areas and time periods, with recognizable characteristics including patterns and techniques. In the case of Islamic glass beads we know they originated in the Middle East and flourished mostly between the seventh and twelfth centuries. Their designs display a wide mix of techniques and styles: millefiori/mosaic (including pierced mosaic pad beads), trailed, filigreed, combed, fused rods, segmented/blown, folded (an Islamic innovation, Holland and Holland 2006) and those derived from amulet shapes, like charm case beads with loops.”Islamic glass beads traveled from their sources of production in the Middle and Near East together with the expansion of Islam to North Africa, Southern Europe (Spain), India and the Far East and they reached areas well beyond Islam’s actual limits of expansion such as Northern Europe. They also flowed into Sub-Saharan Africa, where they were valued and cherished for centuries in the Malian ancient kingdoms as a symbol of status and played an important role in the communities’ rites and ceremonies such a burials, initiation or dowries.

As per bead expert, Jamey Allen: Islamic Period beads are ca. 1000 years old. Dating from between ca CD 900-1200. They might be as early as CE 700, and as late as 1400. In 1400, Western Asian glass industries were destroyed by Tamerlane. And soon after, Egypt desisted as well. This is when Venice stepped in and became the glassmaker for all of Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

African Item 0856

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