Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Dating Methods in SE Archaeology
2009 Problems of ceramic chronology in the Southeast: does shell-tempered pottery appear earlier
As the title of the article would suggest, the author attempts to show in this article that the
number of pots that use shells as temper material in the Southeast are too paltry to make a cogent chronology. Despite this, the author claims, the origin of these pots can be calculated with some accuracy by exploring the luminescense dates for the pots that we do have. The author is more interested in the methods by which shell-tempering came about rather than the time, but explores precise dating as well.
Early in the analysis of pottery, tempering material became a very broad way to organize pottery. These early distinctions were rightly determined mostly to be based on geography and the availabilities of certain materials to use in clay pottery. However, shell tempering came almost exclusively later in almost all regions quite suddenly, and thereupon had a much larger role, as shell-tempered pots are much more resistant to damage than dirt, sand, or grog tempered ones. Early explanations for this sudden growth in shell-tempering were based in rapid migrations around AD 1000, and it is doubtless that migrations certainly played a role. However, this does not explain why it shows up in smaller numbers throughout the region it later became popular in. Previous scholars had reduced these occurences to natural effects. However, the author shows using the dates given by luminscense that the locations of many of these shell-tempered pots cannot be reduced to effects of nature; they fit into the internal chronologies of the site too well. Because of this, the general principle of shell-tempered pots being later in time can be effectively dismissed in this region. The ideas of shell-tempered pottery manufacture clearly were simultaneously developed with the ideas for more prominent tempering materials. Although not explicitly stated, the author suggests it is possible that a new technology such as a lacquer to improve the smoothness of interior of the pots, or perhaps a new method to remove small shell pieces juttting out are to blame for the sudden increase in popularity. Perhaps further research will define a tool as having just that purpose.
Little, Keith J.
2010 Sixteenth-Century Glass Bead Chronology In Southeastern North America.
Southeastern Archaeology 29(1):222-232.
The essence of this article is to make corrections to the typical chronology of glass beads in Southeastern North America, to take into account thirty years of findings since the chronology was constructed. The reason this is important is because glass beads can be extremely distinctive, and have been used many times in the past as chronological indicators for other archaeological finds. Obviously, glass beads are all European in origin, and therefore these beads only help define dates for sites that are post-contact.
Some of the characteristics of that are used to try to chronologize bead assemblages seem arbitrary, such as the number of stripes and their color, the color of the bead itself, or the presence of holes. However, including these with the more rigorous qualities of cut length and angle, as well as mass spectrometry sourcing data, and awknowledging the large number of dated beads found in Europe, the task of creating a chronology becomes substantially easier; even if the number of beads are not always large. Although much of the article is rather dull in explanation of distinctions, some of the most interesting chronological conundrums came from sites where multiple time periods, as well as multiple bead manufacturers were involved. In some cases, guesses were made by reading between the gaps in sequences, but overall a semi-complete chronology is displayed in the article.
Not only is glass bead sequencing helpful for getting actual dates for sites, but looking at particular collections can help to show what happened at a particular place by looking at what types of beads are most prominent. For example, the article mentions a site where beads sourced to England are abundant, but are overtaken (in stratigraphy as well as by dating) by Spanish beads. Even if one were to not know the dates, one could easily suggest that Spanish influence grew in the area. It is surprising that so many different beads were manufactured so as to make a coherent chronology of just one region in one period of time.