The glass beads of Kampai Island, Sumatra

Original Paper


Pulau Kampai is the name of a small island on the east coast of Sumatra and also the name of a village on this island. Excavations conducted at Pulau Kampai in the mid-1970s yielded glass beads likely manufactured in India. More glass beads dating from the 11th to the 14th c. AD were found during excavations undertaken more recently. Those beads were analyzed using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). Results show that the vast majority of the beads were likely imported from South Asia. Trace element signatures point toward two production areas: western India for most of the beads and northeastern India for a few high copper orange and red beads. A small number of beads have a very different composition resulting from the use of soda plant ash and a low alumina silica source indicating a possible Middle-Eastern provenance. A comparison with data published elsewhere indicates a similarity with material found in Egypt, dating from the 13th to the 15th c. AD suggesting that those beads might have reached the island during the later phases of the occupation period and might have transited through Egypt. It is uncertain where those beads were manufactured within the Middle-East. A comparison is provided with the glass beads from the site of Kampung Sungai Mas (9th to the 11th c. AD) located in Malaysia, one of the only “late” sites in the area that was studied recently using LA-ICP-MS.


Glass Beads Southeast Asia Indonesia Compositions LA-ICP-MS 



The LA-ICP-MS laboratory at the Field Museum of Natural History was built with funds from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0320903), an anonymous donation, and the Anthropology Alliance. We would like to thank Daniel Perret (École française d’Extrême-Orient at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) that introduced the authors to each other.

Supplementary material

12520_2016_438_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (67 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Field MuseumElemental Analysis FacilityChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Balai Arkeologi MedanJl. Seroja Raya Gg. ArkeologiMedanIndonesia

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