These are strings of pink and white beads. Glass beads were a regular cargo from England to Africa. In the 1770s they made up between 25% and 50% of the value of cargoes shipped by the Liverpool merchant William Davenport to the Cameroons. Davenport also supplied other slave traders and in 1766-70 sold beads worth about £39,000. Many came from Venice, which produced the finest glass beads, but demand in Africa was so great that they were increasingly made in many other parts of Western Europe.
Until recently, many commentators on Africa claimed that African societies had no tradition of writing. Read more...