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Graduation Term


Document Type

Thesis-ISU Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Sociology and Anthropology: Archaeology

Committee Chair

Kathryn Sampeck


This thesis examines the ceramics from 40GN9, a Cherokee site in East Tennessee occupied from the 1400s to 1600s, to investigate the issue of coalescence during the Late Mississippian (A.D. 1350-1600) and protohistoric (A.D. 1500-1700) periods, a time characterized by disease, widespread demographic and environmental shifts, and changes in slaving, warfare, and politics. It quantifies the attributes of wares, forms, and decorations among the site's ceramics and evaluates the degree of variation within the site.

Examining the spatial distribution of different potting traditions within the site demonstrates the Cherokee women who made the pottery there came from different cultural backgrounds and practiced different potting traditions. Comparing the 40GN9 data to other protohistoric-period sites in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina then illuminates possible connections between the ceramic traditions practiced at the site and others visible in the region, thus indicating the origins of the 40GN9 community members. These analyses also illustrate the creation of a unique potting tradition at 40GN9 characterized by ceramics with smudged or undecorated exteriors, signaling the making of a shared cultural identity.

Such research contributes to the growing body of research concerning the dynamic nature of Native American life before, during, and after contact with Europeans and counteracts a tendency among scholars and the wider public toward viewing native societies as static and unchanging. Moreover, it demonstrates how Cherokee women were actively involved in the dynamic process of community coalescence and identity formation in the late Mississippian and protohistoric time periods.


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