Doctoral Dissertation Research: Elizabeth Straub: An Archaeological Investigation of Southeastern Communities of Practice

Grants and Contracts Details


The Mission period in the southeastern United States (beginning around 1565 AD) was characterized by dramatic social and demographic change. Coastal tribes, which include the Guale, Mocama, Orista, Yamasee, among others, were simultaneously faced with the challenge of negotiating new relationships with Europeans and the global economy, the spread of new diseases, an influx of refugees displaced by violence, and the threat of increasingly prevalent slave raiding. Perhaps not surprisingly, these rapid changes roughly coincide with changes in ceramic production. Among the Guale of the Georgia coast, a new ceramic series called Altamaha developed and became the dominant ceramic type used by all tribes in the entire eastern region of the Spanish mission system. These changes in Native American ceramics have been well-documented by archaeologists, but their causes and meanings remain poorly understood. I will investigate the relationship between social turbulence and ceramic change through a community of practice framework by focusing on the nature of resilience in communities of practice. I aim to answer the following questions: To what extent were Southeastern potters able to maintain their communities of practice the face of social turbulence and demographic change? How did they maintain these communities? In what ways were they altered or disrupted? I have devised a set of research goals which, taken together, will allow me to investigate these questions. Research Goal 1: Identify the minimum number of communities of practice among the sites included in this study during the Irene (cal. AD 1300-1580) and Altamaha (cal. AD 1580-1700) periods. Research Goal 2: Identify which elements of ceramic production vary and which elements are shared between sites. Research Goal 3: Identify changes and continuities in the number of identifiable communities of practice and relationships between them over time. Research Goal 4: Propose explanations for observed change and continuity in the number of and relationships between communities of practice through time. To accomplish these research goals, I will conduct a comparative analysis of multiple sites on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts. This will be a collections-based research project, which will require travel to multiple curation facilities in the Southeast, as well as analysis of collections that are stored at the University of Kentucky and the University of Indianapolis. I will collect a broad range of data about ceramics from each site for comparison and deploy petrographic methods to better understand production decisions and raw material use. If sufficient material can be found in the collections, AMS dating and Bayesian modeling will be used to control for time.
Effective start/end date1/1/233/31/24


  • National Science Foundation: $17,714.00


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