With National Science Foundation support, Dr. Kathryn Jakes and her collaborators will develop techniques to identify fibers which were used by prehistoric Native American peoples and then use the results of this work to analyze archaeological materials from two archaeological sites. They will first accumulate a comparative collection of plants which they believe were potentially used for these purposes. The fibrous plant materials will then be processed by pulling, cutting, retting and carbonizing and then examined by a variety of techniques. These include a number of different photomicroscopy approaches as well as scanning electron microscopy and X ray analysis. On this basis, criteria for species identification can be established and methods developed to determine prehistoric manufacturing processes. Finally, the results will be applied to two sites, the Middle Woodland period Seip Mound in Ohio and the Mississippian period Etowah site in Georgia. While textiles are sometimes encountered in prehistoric Native American sites, currently it is often not possible to determine either how they were manufactured or the raw materials of which they are composed. Archaeologists are interested in these issues not only because of the textiles themselves, but also for what they reveal about prehistoric use of the environment and the light they shed on social structure. It is postulated that within a site, the greater the variation in the types of fabrics produced and the quality and techniques of manufacture, the greater the social complexity of the group involved. This hypothesis will be evaluated through the analysis of Seip and Etowah materials. This research is important for several reasons. It will provide an identification key which will be useful to a large number of archaeologists who work at many sites. It will examine the relationship between variation in material and social complexity and increase our understanding of two important prehistoric sites. Since graduate students will participate, it will assist in the training of young scientists.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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Ohio State University
United States
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