1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Dissertation Proposal: Defining Susquehannock: People and Ceramics in the Lower Susquehanna River Valley, AD 1575 to 1690


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This study challenges the prevailing historical and archaeological narratives of a “Susquehannock” people and explains changes in Susquehannock ceramic vessel arts as the result of individual choice made within the contexts of everyday social life.  I argue that “Susquehannock” is an extensionally defined culture historic taxon created by twentieth-century archaeologists and equated with a historic “Susquehannock” group(s) of Native Americans, variously named by their indigenous neighbors and Europeans. Susquehannock pottery types frequently serve as the marker for this taxon, and ceramic analysis has been central to the study and interpretation of Susquehannock archaeology. The creation of a Susquehannock ceramic typology and seriation in the late 1950s transformed archaeological research from an exercise in site labeling to an in depth study of the chronological history of Indian peoples in the Susquehanna River Valley. Ceramic analyses have guided the construction of early sixteenth century Susquehannock origins in the Upper Susquehanna River Valley of New York, traced mid-sixteenth century Susquehannock migration south along the Susquehanna River, and followed seventeenth-century Susquehannock village settlement and abandonment in theLower Susquehanna River Valley.  Changes in Susquehannock ceramic vessel arts served to demonstrate cultural fluorescence followed by acculturation and decline, ending in tragedy in 1763.

My attribute-based ceramic analysis of decorative and technological style focuses on the production and use of seventeenth-century Susquehannock ceramics. By focusing on ceramic production and use, I draw attention to the people who made (Susquehannock women) and used (all village members) ceramic vessels. In this context, changes in ceramic vessel manufacture were not driven by the introduction of European kettles, but byindividual choices made by the makers and users of ceramic pots.  I argue that as kettles became more available and were incorporated into Susquehannock food preparation and replaced the ceramic family cooking pot, ceramic vessel uses narrowed.  Susquehannock women continued to craft vessels in the manner of their ancestors, but the social context of the ceramic cooking vessel shifted from a joint public/private context to an exclusively private context.  I argue that this shift is reflected in the decorative and technical style choices of Susquehannockwomen over time.

Brooks Hall Conference Room, 2nd Floor

Event Date: 
Friday, 4 May 2012 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Speaker: 
Lisa Lauria
Speaker Title: 
Ph.D. Candidate, Archaeological Anthropology
Event Type: