From ‘Manilla’ wreck site, c. 1730s

Trade beads were made in Europe—mainly in Venice, Bohemia (Czech Republic), and the Netherlands—and used as a trading currency in Africa by Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in, the slave trade. African exporters sold products such as ivory, palm oil, and captive humans in exchange for inexpensively manufactured beads. Glass was rare in Africa, making the beads unusual and precious.

The wreck site is named after the number of excavated ‘manilla’ bracelets as no ship remains were found. Based on the material objects from the site, the wrecked vessel is thought to have been involved in the slave trade with the Dutch West Indies Company as an armed escort rather than a carrier of slaves.

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