Olivella beads from Spiro and the Plains

Laura Kozuch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beads made from Gulf of California dwarf olive shells (Olivella dama) have recently been identified from the Spiro site in eastern Oklahoma. This is the first evidence from Spiro of culture contact to the west. The beads, previously identified as Olivella nivea, are important because O. dama originates in the Gulf of California while O. nivea is from the Gulf of Mexico. An overview of Olivella beads from Plains sites reveals a mixture of shell beads originating from the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of California. The presence of western Olivella beads at Spiro and other Plains sites supports an intensification of trade between Puebloan and Plains peoples during Late Prehistoric times at about A.D. 1400 or slightly earlier, but there is no evidence for strong cultural ties to the west. Olivella beads occur at sites east of the Mississippi River, and these need to be identified to determine coast of origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-709
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


Dive into the research topics of 'Olivella beads from Spiro and the Plains'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this