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1998 Swift Creek Traits in Northeastern Florida: Ceramics, Mounds, and Middens

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... From the tenth through the mid-thirteenth century A.D., St. Johns communities lived in villages and buried their dead in communal sand mounds erected within sight of daily activities (Ashley 2002Ashley , 2012). In addition to these more permanent settlements, smaller resource procurement camps were scattered throughout the uplands and marshfronting hammocks of extreme northeastern Florida (Figure 1). ...
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This study integrates disparate geographical areas of the American Southeast to show how studies of Early Mississippian (A.D. 900-1250) interactions can benefit from a multiscalar approach. Rather than focus on contact and exchanges between farming communities, as is the case with most Mississippian interaction studies, we turn our attention to social relations between village-dwelling St. Johns II fisher-hunter-gatherers of northeastern Florida and more mobile Ocmulgee foragers of southern-central Georgia; non-neighboring groups situated beyond and within the southeastern edge of the Mississippian world, respectively. We draw upon neutron activation analysis data to document the presence of both imported and locally produced Ocmulgee Cordmarked wares in St. Johns II domestic and ritual contexts. Establishing social relations with Ocmulgee households or kin groups through exchange and perhaps marriage would have facilitated St. Johns II access into the Early Mississippian world and enabled them to acquire the exotic copper, stone, and other minerals found in St. Johns mortuary mounds. This study underscores the multiscalarity of past societies and the importance of situating local histories in broader geographical contexts.
... Having said all this, it is important to realize that Hopewell was not the only interaction network identifiable in Middle Woodland material culture in the Southeast; we must also consider how distinctive Swift Creek and early Weeden Island ceramics indexed intercommunity connectivity across of Georgia, northern Florida, and adjacent areas from AD 100 to 750 (Anderson 1998;Ashley 1992Ashley , 1998Ashley and Wallis 2006;Elliott 1998;Snow and Stephenson 1998;Stephenson et al. 2002;Wallis 2011;Williams and Elliott 1998b). Complicated paddle-stamped Swift Creek pottery is uniquely suited to examining Middle Woodland interaction, insofar as ''paddle matches'' identified within and between ceramic assemblages can indicate the movement (or lack thereof) of pots, paddles, and/or potters. ...
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During the Middle Woodland period, from 200 BC to AD 600, southeastern societies erected monuments, interacted widely, and produced some of the most striking material culture of the pre-Columbian era, but these developments are often overshadowed by the contemporaneous florescence of Hopewell culture in Ohio. I argue that the demonstrable material links between the Middle Woodland Southeast and Midwest demand that we cease to analyze these regional archaeological records in isolation and adopt multiscalar perspectives on the social fields that emerged from and impacted local Middle Woodland societies. In synthesizing recent research on Middle Woodland settlement, monumentality, interaction, and social organization, I make explicit comparisons between the Middle Woodland Southeast and Ohio Hopewell, revealing both commonalities and contrasts. New methodological approaches in the Southeast, including geophysical survey techniques, Bayesian chronological modeling, and high-resolution provenance analyses, promise to further elucidate site-specific histories and intersite connectivity. By implementing theoretical frameworks that simultaneously consider these local and global dimensions of Middle Woodland sociality, we may establish the southeastern Middle Woodland period as an archaeological context capable of elucidating the deep history of the Eastern Woodlands as well as long-standing issues surrounding middle-range societies.
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We describe the development of an open-access database for Swift Creek Complicated Stamped ceramics, a type of pottery common to Georgia, eastern Alabama, and northern Florida in the Middle and Late Woodland periods between ca. cal A.D. 100 and 800. The characteristic stamped designs on Swift Creek pottery, created by impressing a carved paddle into a clay vessel before firing, provide unique signatures that enable archaeologists to identify paddle matches—multiple vessels, sometimes hundreds of kilometers apart, stamped with a single paddle. These paddle matches potentially allow archaeologists to trace social interactions across hundreds of kilometers with high spatial and temporal resolution. To date, however, this potential has been hindered by the limited accessibility and fragmented nature of the dataset of reconstructed designs. The database we describe integrates paddle designs with other pertinent data for identifying paddle matches and their context, including the results of sourcing and technofunctional analyses and absolute dating. We view this database not only as a critical component of our own research, but also as a platform for collaboration among researchers that will facilitate broad syntheses of the region.
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Many Archaic and Woodland period monuments in south-eastern North America were civic and ceremonial gathering centers. The built landscapes that emphasized these features are likely to have incorporated histories and memories in locally distinctive ways across the region. However, their attribution by archaeologists to broad temporal and social categories has tended to disguise this individuality. In this article I argue that the major structural changes that define the transition between the Archaic and Woodland periods were intersected by landscapes that were integral to the construction of locally important histories and memories. I point to an example from the Woodland period on the lower St Johns River, Florida, in which spatial relationships between monuments, recurrent deposition of mnemonic artifacts, and movement of people between places recreated a relational kind of social identity and personhood that was locally distinct.
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