Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology: Archaeology
James M. Skibo
This thesis will outline the temporal changes and choices of colonial powers and individuals as expressed at historic frontier posts in the Midwest between 1683 and 1779 as expressed through their supply and usage of gunflints. Gunflints exist as persistent artifacts at historic sites, and especially so at fortifications like Fort de Chartres, Fort St. Joseph, Fort Michilimackinac and Fort Ouiatenon. These sites exist within the same chronological timeframe, from 1690-1780, and saw occupation by both the French and British, with nearby indigenous groups, and should serve as instructive means to investigate the factors involved in the supply, selection, and use of gunflints. The project examined gunflint distribution based upon factors such as country of manufacture, style, and approximate chronological dating in order to investigate the influence of political, economic, and military events of this time period upon the availability and use of these artifacts. This study will not base itself with a reliance upon a trait based analysis, but will drill deeper into the reasons for the choices these communities made when selecting gunflints with different styles and places of manufacture. In this way, a more profound understanding of a nation’s choices, as they pertained to gunflint modes and styles over time as well as a consideration of the various social, economic, and political factors which affected distribution and transportation to these interior forts will help to bring context and understanding in the choices made by military, civilians, and indigenous populations in the historic Midwest during this time period.
The pervasiveness of gunflints at historic archaeological sites in the Midwest makes them a potentially central line of evidence about chronology, political and economic control, and trade patterns during this period. While a chronological window narrowing the styles and types of gunflints available to the different nations did not prove possible, differences in the metrics of the gunflints at Fort de Chartres when compared to those at the other fortifications led to questions of supply and choice by the British at this fort in particular. Previously unstudied gunflints offered the opportunity for a thorough morphological, physical, and functional analysis. Additionally, these assemblages offered insight into gunflints use, supply, trade patterns, and choices by the military, civilian, and indigenous populations within these fortifications during this period, and opened up the discussion of preferences in regards to styles and types of gunflints. As the first real European presence in the interior, the French influenced political and economic patterns with the indigenous groups. With later British penetration, and eventual control, these patterns continued to shift, despite local French influences, with Fort de Chartres representing an anomaly when compared to the other French-turned-British forts.
Spanbauer, Jeffrey A., "“Sparks Fly ”: Connecting Midwestern Historic Forts through a Comparative Study of Gunflints" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 713.