Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Another Kind of Beads: A Forgotten Industry of the North American Colonial Period

This dissertation bears on a minor chapter in the colonial history of northeastern North America. My identification of 39 forms of marine shell ornaments as a unified industry foregrounds the presence of these products across 127 Historic Period archaeological sites in 18 states. I have designated this industry Standardized Marine Shell (hereafter SMS). Known almost entirely from archaeological specimens, the significance of these ornaments has proved approachable only through amassing a large analyzable inventory. When SMS is seen as a distinct product from both wampum and Native-modified marine shell ornaments, it can be perceived as a previously undefined industry spanning circa 1635-1710 A.D. The robust and varied SMS industry subsequently gives way to smaller and simpler shell ornament industries continuing into the late 19th century. After an initial assessment of the colonial setting and characteristics of SMS production, I explore an inventory of 4845 ornaments, verifying this as a bounded industry and clarifying that the primary recipients of these standardized ornaments are the central figures in the 17th century Dutch fur trade network, as represented by 127 archaeological sites. I develop a statistical representation of SMS chronological affiliations that I term span factored annual percentages (SFAP) which graph each form's history, cumulatively illustrating SMS as a commodity. The image that emerges is of a small-scale production and distribution strategy initiated by early settlers in the nascent New Netherland colony.