Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Stability and Change in Guale Indian Pottery, A. D. 1300-1702

Stability and Change in Guale Indian Pottery, A. D. 1300-1702

by Rebecca Saunders
By studying the ceramic traditions of the Guale Indians, Rebecca Saunders provides evidence of change in Native American lifeways from prehistory through European contact and the end of the Mission period. The Guale were among the first southeastern groups to come into contact with Spanish and French colonists, and they adapted various strategies in order to ensure


By studying the ceramic traditions of the Guale Indians, Rebecca Saunders provides evidence of change in Native American lifeways from prehistory through European contact and the end of the Mission period. The Guale were among the first southeastern groups to come into contact with Spanish and French colonists, and they adapted various strategies in order to ensure their own social survival. That adaptation is reflected, Saunders shows, in the changing attributes of pottery recovered on archaeological sites on the coasts of Georgia and Florida. Saunders traces the evolution of Guale pottery from the late prehistoric Irene phase through the Mission period at the three archaeological sites. She uses both technological and stylistic attributes to monitor change, paying particular attention to changes in execution and frequency of the filfot crossa stylized cross that is a symbol of Guale cosmology. The frequency of this symbol in different ceramic components, according to Saunders, is a measure of change in the worldview of the missionized Guale. Although the symbol abruptly changed after the first Spanish contact, it showed remarkable stability through the Mission period, suggesting that traditional craft training and production remained strong despite high mortality rates and frequent relocation. Only after 1684, when the Guale were relocated to Amelia Island in present-day Florida, did the use of the cross motif decline, suggesting that the Guale who remained in Spanish territory may have conceived of their place in the cosmos differently from their forebears or their contemporaries who fled to the interior.

Product Details

University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Stability and Change in Guale Indian Pottery, A.D. 1300-1702

By Rebecca Saunders


Copyright © 2000 The University of Alabama Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8173-1012-7

Chapter One

Pottery and Culture Change

This work is a study of change in the pottery made by the late pre-Columbian and Mission period Guale (whäle) Indians of the Georgia and northeast Florida coasts (Figure 1.1). Technological and stylistic attributes of Guale pottery are compared across time and space, beginning in the late pre-Columbian period and ending in 1702, the date of the demise of the Spanish mission system on the Atlantic coast. As such, the research deals with three previously defined pottery assemblages. The first two, Irene phase (circa A.D. 1300-1600) and Altamaha phase assemblages (circa A.D. 1600-1690), from the central and northern Georgia coasts, are associated with the pre-Columbian and early Mission period Guale Indians, respectively. The last assemblage, San Marcos (circa A.D. 1650-1763?) assemblages of the St. Augustine phase, appeared in what is now southern Georgia and northeastern Florida at the time of the immigration of the Guale and Yamassee to that region in the mid-seventeenth century (Worth 1995).

What follows is a description of technological and stylistic attributes of those pottery types from a series of discrete temporal contexts. A consideration of the changes in attribute values overtime and space, in concert with relevant historical and ethnohistoric data, should help explain when Irene assemblages qualitatively changed and became Altamaha assemblages. The characteristics of Altamaha assemblages are then compared to San Marcos assemblages to determine which pottery attributes changed and which remained stable over the years of declining population and the nucleation of peoples in the later Mission period. Taken together, these data will be used to assess the extent to which the disruption of the traditional production and social systems of the Guale Indians in the Mission period affected pottery production.

This study begins with a review of general theories of ceramic change and the results of previous research into Native American pottery in (principally Spanish) colonial contexts. Chapter 2 presents a social history of the Guale. Using archaeological and ethnohistoric data from La Florida, I review relevant aspects of traditional Guale settlement and subsistence patterns and social structure. A brief history of contact and the development of the mission system follows. The imposition of the mission system on the native inhabitants interfered with indigenous traditions; the resultant changes and their effect on pottery production and iconography are the focus of the chapter.

The next chapters provide a review of the type descriptions of the pottery involved (Chapter 3) and the attributes chosen for this study of change (Chapter 4). Attributes were chosen on the basis of the type descriptions developed and refined for late Irene, Altamaha, and San Marcos assemblages and from other studies of pottery from single and multicomponent sites associated with the Guale. Both technological and stylistic attributes are considered, though stylistic aspects are emphasized. In particular, I examine the evolution of the curvilinear Irene phase filfot cross with its fine land and grooves to the bold carving in San Marcos rectilinear stamped motifs.

Once the relevant attributes are described, the methodology for the analysis of the assemblages studied is explained (Chapter 4). Chapter 4 includes a discussion of the coding system used, how attributes were assessed and measured, and how the data are displayed in subsequent chapters.

The data for this research come from three Guale sites. The earliest pottery examined is from middle to late Irene phase (circa A.D. 1350-1580) components at the Meeting House Fields site on St. Catherines Island, Georgia. This assemblage provides baseline data from which to monitor the changes known to have occurred in the pottery in the succeeding Mission period. Criteria for the selection of this site for the research and the results of the analysis of the pottery from the site are presented in Chapter 5.

The next set of pottery collections comes from the Spanish buildings at the mission site of Santa Catalina, also on St. Catherines Island, Georgia (Chapter 6). At that site, pottery from pre-1597 contexts in the convento (the residence of the friars) are compared with both the Meeting House Fields materials and later postrebellion (1604-1680) context pottery at the mission to determine the rate of change in attributes from Irene to Altamaha pottery. Once that determination is made, pottery collections from the later contexts-a church, a kitchen, and the late convento-are examined to see whether pottery attributes are correlated with structure function. The determination of the extent to which these "contexts of use" are associated with distinct assemblages of form or decoration is crucial to an understanding of the change in Guale pottery as a whole.

Many of the Guale Indians associated with the Santa Catalina mission in Georgia (along with some other groups) were moved to Amelia Island, Florida, in 1684 (Worth 1995:194). Mission Santa Catalina was reestablished on that island and remained inhabited until 1702 when it was attacked and burned by British forces from South Carolina. Analysis of the pottery from three contexts-a possible kitchen, the convento, and the church of the Santa Catalina mission on Amelia-are analyzed in the same way as the material from St. Catherines Island (Chapter 7). Finally, the assemblages from the Georgia and Florida incarnations of Santa Catalina are compared. Results of this analysis provide the first detailed study of the differences between Altamaha and San Marcos pottery. The Amelia Island materials can also be used to address the question of changes in pottery assemblages consequent to population nucleation.

It is unfortunate that few pottery collections from Mission period aboriginal village contexts are available because these would be the most appropriate contexts to compare with the village refuse of the Irene phase site. The pueblo associated with the Santa Catalina mission on St. Catherines Island has been tested with a mechanical auger, but the ceramic analysis has not been published. The Wamassee Head site, immediately southeast of the mission compound, was tested by Lewis Larson in 1959 and by the American Museum of Natural History in 1980 (Thomas 1987:105, 113). Altamaha phase pottery from Larson's excavations was analyzed by Brewer (1985). Her findings are incorporated into this discussion. The village presumably associated with the Santa Catalina mission on Amelia Island (but possibly associated with the earlier Yamassee Indian mission of Santa María) was tested in 1971, and the pottery recovered was reported (Hemmings and Deagan 1973). Although their methodology differed from that used at the mission and their analysis was not as detailed, Hemmings and Deagan had some results that can be compared with those from the mission compound (see Chapter 7).

Taken together, these assemblages provide geographical, temporal, and contextual control over attribute changes in Guale Indian pottery. In contrast to many other cases of aboriginal pottery in colonial contexts (reviewed below), there were conspicuous changes in Guale Indian pottery after contact. The thrust of this work, facilitated by the series of tightly dated components, was to determine the timing and rate of these changes and to correlate them with other changes in Guale culture during the Mission period.

Before examining the specific archaeological contexts used in this analysis, I reviewed past approaches to the understanding of pottery change. The review underscores the fact that pottery production and use are embedded in the technological, sociological, and ideological subsystems of a society but that no single medium can be expected to "reflect" directly any of these subsystems in all situations (see Arnold 1985; Hodder 1982).

General Theories of Pottery Change

Some researchers have argued that there is a conservative pragmatism in traditional potters that precludes much dramatic change in their wares (Foster 1960; cf. Rice 1987:460). Nevertheless, over time, pottery does change, and as one of the primary sources of data in the archaeological record, it is incumbent upon us to explain under what circumstances changes occur. Certainly, change does not appear to affect pottery uniformly through time or space. Instead, as Binford (1962) suggested some time ago (alluding to material culture in general), process(es) of change are dependent on the way an item functioned in society-as a technomic, sociotechnic, or ideotechnic artifact or in some combination of these subclasses. Changes in technomic, utilitarian artifacts can be related to environmental variables; sociotechnic artifact change can be correlated with change in the structural aspects of society, and ideotechnic artifacts respond to ideological or cosmological aspects. Binford noted that style crosscuts all three subclasses and, anticipating Wobst (1977), observed that style functions to provide "a symbolically diverse yet pervasive artifactual environment promoting group solidarity and serving as a basis for group awareness and identity. This pansystemic set of symbols is the milieu of enculturation and a basis for the recognition of social distinctiveness" (Binford 1962:25). Binford related change in stylistic attributes to "changes in the structure of sociocultural systems either brought about through processes of in situ evolution, or by changes in the cultural environment to which local sociocultural systems are adapted" (Binford 1962:25). Although Binford did not discuss pottery change directly in this classic work on the "systemic approach," it can be noted here that pottery production and use incorporates technomic, sociotechnic, ideotechnic, and stylistic elements so that the entire adaptive milieu must be considered when approaching pottery change.

Kubler (1961:15) used a somewhat similar "systemic approach" when he retrodicted that in Spanish colonial contexts in Latin America, the utility of any particular native behavior was "closely linked" with its survival. Consequently, religious beliefs and the art symbolizing their expression were particularly vulnerable to rapid extermination. Although Kubler's explanation was uninformed by more recent research into the functional uses of style, he (Kubler 1961:34) nevertheless offered a viable and testable hypothesis for the survival of material culture in conquest situations:

In respect to colonial action, differing graduated scales can be suggested for the survival of various items in the cultural repertory. The scales vary according to the magnitude of the intrusion. Most likely to weather a great displacement in the hands of a few stragglers would be useful plants and animals (index 5). Useful crafts would be next most likely to attain perpetuation if any one survived (index 4). Then, useful symbolic knowledge such as language, explanatory myths or animalistic accounts (index 3). Aesthetic symbols would come next, in the arts of time and space (index 2). Religious beliefs: the accounting of the unknown in nature and in perception would have the lowest value (index 1).

Thus, in Kubler's approach, pottery should survive, but the aesthetic symbols or religious iconography used as decoration would be unstable. Kubler's addendum, that the order of abandonment is reversed when considering the acquisition of traits by subjugated populations (so that religion is the first to be adopted) has been disproved (see, for example, Spicer 1961).

Other factors that might figure in the retention or abandonment of pottery types and/or attributes have also been explored. For instance, in his cross-cultural examination of the causes of stability and change in pottery production, Nicklin (1971; see also Arnold 1985) stressed the cultural context of pottery production. Pottery is less likely to change if the context was production for use on a seasonal basis than if production was stimulated by market demands, though under certain circumstances the market may also contribute to conservatism. Population pressure (Arnold 1985; Rice 1984) and depopulation (Rice 1984) can force changes in the mode of production and in stylistic aspects of pottery. In one of the more comprehensive treatises on change, Rice (1984) isolated seven major factors-resources, efficiency, diet, ritual behavior, value systems, status of potters and organization of production, and market demand-each with separate variables that might influence stability or change in ware characteristics.

In the last decade or so, there has been little emphasis on the description and explication of pottery change in the literature. A 1992 review of archaeological research on style (Hegmon 1992) does not even mention change. This situation may have resulted from the ascendancy of the postprocessualists and their emphasis on the more static problem of the meaning and uses of style rather than stylistic change. Although some works by postprocessualists have discussed changes in symbolic meaning through time (e.g., Emerson 1997), such studies tend to be highly particularistic; only the cultural evolutionists have continued to formally discuss and describe change in material culture attributes at the level of high- and middle-range theory (Braun 1995; Durham 1990; Hill 1985; Maschner 1996; but see Plog 1995). Thus, in Carr and Neitzel's (1995:9; also see Carr 1995a, 1995b) exhaustive, hierarchical "unification" of the multiple approaches to style, selectionist theory, coupled with concepts and vocabulary provided by processualism, provides the "umbrella framework for integrating many processes that determine material style and its change or stability over time. These processes include natural selection, cultural selective processes that do not involve choice, and cultural selective processes that do involve choice." However, in analyzing a single instance of change, Carr and Neitzel (1995:10) note that explication must consider: (1) the phenomenological level of explanation (ecosystem, society and culture, and/or the individual, each of which has different factors that affect style), and (2) four logical types of causal factors: (a) dynamic processes; (b) constraints and conditions that define, promote, or discourage these processes; (c) the local history that triggers the processes; and (d) the regulating structures that permit the survival of the system by controlling processes.

The interplay of many of these causal factors is apparent in the results of previous research of pottery change in Spanish colonial contexts. Although few studies have the unified rigor of Carr's (1995a, 1995b) research design, in a number of instances, researches have alluded to some, though never all, of both the phenomenological level of explanation and the four causal factors.

Pottery Change in Spanish Colonial Contexts

Conventional wisdom has it that the change from Irene phase pottery to that of the Altamaha and St. Augustine (San Marcos pottery) phases reflected the simplification or "deculturation" (sensu Smith 1987) of the Guale brought about by the ravages of epidemic disease and other destructive consequences of Spanish colonization. This "deculturation" could have resulted from many of the social changes wrought in the colonial milieu. Theoretically, the transmission of both the technology of pottery manufacture and design style and content could have been interrupted by population loss and/or changes in marriage patterns and residence rules (Deagan 1985:295; see also Hann 1988:245-246 for changes in Apalachee pottery). Simplification in design execution might also be linked with increased labor demands on Native Americans in mission contexts. Finally, Hann (1988:246; see also Willey 1982:489) noted "a decline in the aesthetic quality of mission-era pottery, but ... it was expected because this feature was intimately linked with aboriginal tribal lore and religion."

The fact that any or all of these factors produced an entirely different pottery type out of the late pre-Columbian Irene phase pottery makes the case of Guale pottery one of a few demonstrable examples of ceramic change correlating with historic change. Indeed, in contrast to Binford's expectation that change in stylistic attributes would be directly related to changes in the cultural environment, many researchers (e.g., Charlton 1968; Cusick 1989; Tschopik 1950) studying historically known groups of Native Americans in Spanish colonial contexts found only minor changes in traditional pottery manufacture and decoration (except where the indigenous population died out altogether and the pottery disappeared completely; see, for example, Smith 1986). Studies in other historical contexts, for instance Adams's (1979) analysis of African pottery, have also failed to correlate ceramic change with known tumultuous events, casting doubt on the ability of archaeology to perceive social change on the basis of changes in material culture.

Two studies of pottery change in the context of Spanish-Amerindian contact have been particularly influential. Despite severe depopulation for both the Aymara (Tshopik 1950) and the Aztec (Charlton 1968), pottery change appeared limited to a decrease in the frequency of burnishing for both groups, the addition of infrequent colono-ware forms for the Aymara, and the loss of a ceramic type for the Aztec. As Rice (1984:270) noted when discussing these works, in both areas pottery factories were established and Native Americans began to produce wheel-thrown, kiln-fired glazed wares for Spanish consumption. Because the Spanish did not rely on native wares for their own use, Spanish influence on these wares was negligible. More recently, however, Charleton and Fournier (1993) have described a process of ceramic change in urban and, to a lesser extent, rural areas of central Mexico. The introduction of Spanish ceramics was followed by the stimulation and elaboration of native ceramics with borrowing of selected Spanish attributes. Ultimately, "the indigenous ceramic tradition became less complex and converged with a Hispanic ceramic tradition that was also less complex and variable than that in the Iberian Peninsula" (Charleton and Fournier 1993:211). In the Aymara area, however, Chucuito pottery (the pre-Columbian type) continued to be used by the Aymara and by mestizos. Tshopik (1950:206) added that in the case of the mestizo "aristocracy," the use of native utilitarian wares was restricted to the kitchen, whereas serving wares were imported glazed wares and glassware. A remarkably similar dichotomy existed in the mestizo households of St. Augustine (Deagan 1983, 1988; and see below).


Excerpted from Stability and Change in Guale Indian Pottery, A.D. 1300-1702 by Rebecca Saunders Copyright © 2000 by The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews