Late Mississippian Ceramic Production on St. Catherines Island, Georgia Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • July 24, 2019
  • Semon, Anna Mary
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • This dissertation examines Late Mississippian pottery manufacturing on St. Catherines Island, Georgia. Data collected from five ceramic assemblages, three village and two mortuary sites, were used to characterize each ceramic assemblage and examine small-scale ceramic variations associated with learning and making pottery, which reflect pottery communities of practice. In addition, I examined pottery decorations to investigate social interactions at community and household levels. This dissertation is organized in six chapters. Chapter 1 provides the background, theoretical framework, and objectives of this research. Chapter 2 describes coastal Georgia’s culture history, with focus on the Mississippian period. Chapters 3 and 4 present the methods and results of this study. I use both ceramic typology and attribute analyses to explore ceramic variation. Chapter 3 provides details about the ceramic typology for each site. In addition, I examine the Mississippian surface treatments for each assemblage and identified ceramic changes between middle Irene (A.D. 1350–1450), late Irene (A.D. 1450–1580), and early Mission (A.D. 1580–1600) period. The surface treatment trend indicates stamping decreases and incising increases over time. In addition, I compare St. Catherines surface treatment data with Irene and early Mission period sites on the Georgia coast and further discuss temporal trends. Chapter 4 focuses on the technological and stylistic attribute analyses for selected Mississippian ceramics. In this chapter, I discuss details about temper, firing conditions, surface decorations (specifically, incised, check stamped, and complicated stamped wares), and a variety of rim attributes associated with each assemblage. I use these analyses to examine ceramic variability and identify Late Mississippian ceramic micro-styles and potting communities of practice on St. Catherines Island. The attribute data identified additional ceramic temporal changes between middle Irene phase and early Mission period. These changes include increased use of sand and sand/grit tempers, different firing conditions, increase in wall thicknesses, wider rimstrips and folds, and greater diversity of stamped and incised designs. Although data reflect numerous temporal trends, inter-site grit tempered pottery comparison revealed a long-lived, grit tempered ceramic tradition that changed through time. The pattern implies a large community of practice in which Irene potters on St. Catherines learned similar clay recipes, coil making, vessel building, and firing techniques. In addition, I characterize filfot cross variation among the assemblages. From the five assemblages, I identified 14 diagnostic designs, 21 partial designs, and 97 paddles. The evidence shows a range of filfot designs, some shared among sites and other unique to a site. The shared designs suggest interaction and affiliations among potters from different sites, while the unique designs indicate intentional distinctions. Chapter 5 provides a detailed discussion of complicated stamped pottery within each village site. In this chapter, I take a closer look at the filfot cross stamped pottery and characterize technological and stylistic variations at the midden level to test three hypotheses, as a way to identify ceramic micro-styles, unique potting communities of practice, and inter- and intra-site social interactions. The St. Catherines data indicate a more nuanced story in which midden filfot sherds consist of a range of tempers, firing conditions, thicknesses and designs. However, the St. Catherines data broadly show similarities at the midden and village levels toindicate a persistent grit-tempered filfot pottery tradition. In addition, the midden filfot attribute research highlights a few other patterns, including temporal trends, a distinct clay tempered filfot community of practice, and shared filfot designs that reflect social interactions. The final chapter summarizes this research by discussing the four major findings, explores Irene potters and pottery manufacturing on St. Catherines Island, and concludes by discussing future research directions.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Scarry, C. Margaret
  • Scarry, John
  • Davis, R. P. Stephen
  • Steponaitis, Vincas P.
  • Agbe-Davis, Anna
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2019

This work has no parents.