Arts and Culture
Among the numerous gold and silver jewels recovered from a 17th century Spanish shipwreck at the Northern Mariana Islands in 1980s, a cache of exquisite gold decorative beads has attracted a great attention to the production of European style jewelry in Asia, and the various trade routes of prestige gold and silver between early modern Europe and Asia. Interestingly, the earliest evidence of gold polyhedral beads had been found as far back as the classical age. A total of 119 gold polyhedral beads were found across Asia between the first century BCE and sixth century CE, south to the Southern Vietnam and north to Northeast Mongolia. In previous studies these gold artifacts were considered direct imports from ancient Rome or India through maritime trading. The present study looks at ornamental details and manufacturing techniques of the polyhedral beads, and raises some key questions as to where were they made and by whom? Can we see them as proof of early contacts between China, Southern Asia and the Mediterranean world? It discusses how a study of prestige technology would contribute to a better understanding of the multifaceted nature of cross-cultural interaction in ancient Eurasia.