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Journal of Northeast Texas Archeology

DOI

https://doi.org/10.21112/ita.2017.1.27

Abstract

Late Caddo period sites belonging to the Frankston phase (ca. A.D. 1400-1680) and the Historic Caddo Allen phase (ca. A.D. 1680-1800) are common in the upper Neches River basin in East Texas, including habitation sites as well as associated and unassociated cemeteries. As is well known, ancestral Caddo cemeteries have burial features with associated funerary offerings, most commonly ceramic vessels. In this article, we document 34 ancestral Caddo ceramic vessels in the collections of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin (TARL) from six different sites in the upper Neches River basin, including the Ballard Estates (41AN53, n=4 vessels), O. L. Ellis (41AN54, n=15), Lee Ellis (41AN56, n=1), Dabbs Estate (41AN57, n=3), A. H. Reagor (41CE15, n=3), and John Bragg (41CE23, n=8 vessels) sites.

Our first purpose is to put on record these ceramic vessels from six poorly known ancestral Caddo sites in order to better understand the history of Caddo settlement in the upper Neches River basin, including the history of burial interments at these sites.

The second purpose is much broader, and is part of an effort to establish an East Texas Caddo ceramic vessel database that can be employed for a variety of research purposes. The synthesis of the stylistically diverse Caddo ceramic wares in different recognized ancestral communities across the Caddo area, including the upper Neches River basin occupied by a Hasinai Caddo group, would seem to be tailor-made for studies of ancestral Caddo social networks and social identities that rely on large regional ceramic datasets. The formal and statistical assessment of the regional variation in Caddo ceramic assemblages is currently being assembled in a Geographic Information System by Robert Z. Selden, Jr. (Stephen F. Austin State University), and the assemblages include the vessels from the six sites discussed herein. This is based on the delineation of temporal and spatial divisions in the character of Caddo ceramics (i.e., principally data on decorative methods, vessel forms, defined types and varieties, and the use of different tempers) across East Texas sites and other parts of the Caddo area, and then constructing networks of similarities between ceramic assemblages from these sites that can be used to assess the strength of cultural and social relationships among Caddo communities in the region through time and across space. The identification of such postulated relationships can then be explored to determine the underlying reasons for the existence of such relationships, including factors such as the frequency of interaction and direct contact between communities, the trade and exchange of ceramic vessels, population movement, and similarities in the organization of ceramic vessel production. In conjunction with a database on 2D/3D-scanned Caddo ceramic vessels from East Texas sites, the East Texas Caddo ceramic vessel database is made part of a digital database where comprehensive mathematical and quantitative analyses of morphological attributes and decorative elements on vessels can be conducted. Queries to such a combined database of vessels and sherds should lead to better understandings of regional Caddo ceramic stylistic and technological attributes and their spatial and temporal underpinnings.

The results of past and current instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) and petrographic analysis of Caddo Area ceramics, including East Texas (where there is a robust INAA database) can also be explored as a means to corroborate production locales, and establish the chemical and paste characteristics of local fine ware and utility ware ceramics in assemblages of different ages. These in turn allow the evaluation of the possible movement of ceramic vessels between different Caddo communities in East Texas and the broader Caddo world.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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