Photographs (left to right): Cycad, Florida; Sunflower, Cayuga Lake, New York; Great Horned Owl, California

Wampum Belt Archive


Wampum Belt




British Museum BMAN1065574001

Original Size:

Length: 90 inches: 250 row. Width: 2.5 inches: 15 row. About 3,750 beads (15-50 missing?)

91.5 cm x 10 cm



Belt of wampum shell beads, recovered from a grave and restrung, white and purple in co lour, with no indication whether the configuration is the original one. The belt is 16 warps wide, with 15 rows of beads, by 250 long, to make a theoretical total of 3750 beads, but there are probably between 15-50 missing.
The twine seems to be cotton.

The original registration slip reads: 'No 6. Belt of imported wampum from a grave in Fleming, New York. The manufactured or wampum of commerce, probably of about 1630, brought into this region by way of Montreal.' 'North America, Ancient. Belt formed of fifteen rows of lilac and white cylinders of shell.'

Additional description etc by JCK 24/10/95.

See also Christy Correspondence:
List of items 'On approval' sent by W A Baker to C H Read, 19 July 1889, from which the above text is taken. The price was £7. 0. 0.
In a letter to Read of 20 August 1889, Baker comments:
'...I think that the cylindrical beads you mention were made somewhere in Rhode Island, by whites, for traffic with the indians, about 1600. They made them there by some primitive machinery and ruined the Indian manufacture utterly. The purple always lost its color when buried, and when dug up the white and purple look alike. There was an imitation also made in Venice which came over here with the beads, only that never lost its gloss by contact with earth...'
Baker also remarks 'The price of the wampum is possibly too high. The belts do not belong to me, and I simply listed them at the price the owner put on them ...'


British Museum. For more details see -