Rochelle Ann Marrinan.

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CERAMICS, MOLLUSCS, AND SEDENTiSM:
THE LATE ARCHAIC PERIOD ON THE GEORGIA COAST



By ~
Rochelle A. Marrinan



A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL

OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE

DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1975



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Although some research efforts may be individual undertakings, archaeo-
logical investigations characteristically are not. Many factors — the site,
quantities of material to be processed, techniques used to gather informa-
tion, and the usually public nature of excavations - preclude the possibility
that a single person can accomplish the field research singlehandedly.
During the four field sessions spent gathering data which make this disser-
tation possible, over 30 students were provided field research experience.
Their participation in the University of Florida Department of Anthropology
Archaeology Field Schools made possible the excavation of materials pre-
sented herein. It is with gratitude that I acknowledge the following field
col laborators:

Summer , 1973 . Nain Anderson, Roberta Leml ich, Leonard Roberts, Sandra
Sampson, and Mary Turpen.

Spring , 197^ - Chris Birdsall, Mark Brooks, Marion Drescher, Leslie
Gresh, Steve Hamburg, Lynne Jackson, Tim Kohler, and Hugh Prine.

Summer , 197** . Richard Atwood, John Barksdale, Debbi Baukney, Bill
Chr istofferson, Robin Futch, Jean Gearing, Elizabeth Hill, Brenda Lavelle,
David Lawrence, Maureen Lineaweaver, Karen Malesky, Harvey McKenzie, Janet
McPhail, and Rebeca Quintana-Garcia, Connie Welsch, and Joy Willard.

Winter , 1975 - Nain Anderson, George Edwardson, Sandra Forney, Tim
Kohler, and Mary Turpen. Robin Futch, Elizabeth Hill, Roberta Leml ich,
Janet McPhail, and Rebeca Quintana-Garcia volunteered many weekends of
assistance which added needed time to field work.



Analysis of excavated materials involved the assistance of many
specialists. I should like to thank Dr. Fred Thompson, Malacologist ,
Florida State Museum, for aid in identification of the molluscs; Dr.
Pierce Brodkorb of the University of Florida Department of Zoology for
assistance with the intricacies of avian osteology, and Dr. David
Hubbel, Institute of Food and Agricultural Scjences, University of
Florida, who made possible the processing of soil samples. Dr. William
R„ Maples, Chairman of the Department of SoclaL. Sciences, Florida State
Museum, aged the few human skeletal elements recovered. Dr. Robert L.
Stephenson, Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology,
University of South Carolina, made copies of preliminary work on South
Carolina ring sites available. Dr. E. Thomas Hemmings, West Virginia
Geological Survey, made available copies of manuscripts in preparation
and preliminary field analysis.

Special thanks is extended to Chester DePratter, University of
Georgia, for his continued interest. His knowledge of the Georgia
coastal area provided numerous insights. Charles Pearson, University
of Georgia, shared his knowledge of sites within the project area. Mr.
Pearson first reported the Marsh Ring site in 1972. Dr. Donald L.
Crusoe, Southeastern Archaeological Center, made available copies of
manuscripts in preparation and discussed his research findings.

Preliminary paleobotanical identification was made by Timothy A.
Kohler using the facilities of the University of Florida Herbarium
and his own collections. Mr. Kohler was twice a field crew member and
any expression of gratitude of his contributions would be insufficient.



George Edwardson and Lynn Cunningham (University of New Mexico)
spent considerable time with illustrations presented, Roberta Lemlich
provided the photographs of lithic and shell artifacts. Dr. William
R. Maples kindly made the photographic equipment of the Department of
Social Sciences, Florida State Museum, available.

Sea Island Properties, Inc., made this project possible and it is
impossible to thank them sufficiently. However, I would specifically
like to thank Mr. William A. Jones, Sr. , Mr. William A. Jones, Jr.,
and Mr. J.D„ Benefield, Jr., for their kindness and cooperation. I am
very grateful that the opportunity to conduct research in such an
interesting and extremely beautiful area was mine.

To the members of my committee, I extend thanks for their continued
academic and personal support. Dr. Dickinson spent considerable time
editing this manuscript. Dr. Patton generously provided information
and encouragement. Dr. Milanich provided advice, field assistance, and
editorial time. Dr. Wing has been a great help to me since I first
came to her for assistance with a field school project as an undergraduate.
Since that time and particularly since 1973* she has made space available
for work, comparative collections, and invaluable information on almost
a daily basis. I have greatly profited from this contact.

Dr. Fairbanks initially interested me in this research topic and
continued financial support for field and analytical work. Four field
sessions constitute a major outlay of funds. I am particularly grateful
for the confidence, the personal contact, and the direction he has will-
ingly given. In the final analysis, Dr. Fairbanks is responsible for pro-
viding the opportunity to undertake this research.

iv



There are probably others to whom an expression of gratitude is
due. ! apologize for any oversight and wish to point out that while
the above-named individuals have provided information from their
special competencies, I am responsible for its presentation In this
manuscript.



PREFACE
This dissertation is a study in the application of hypothesis for-
mulation and testing to archaeological investigation of an early prehis-
toric aboriginal culture. It is presented chronologically in order to
document the considerations and observations in perspective. To do other-
wise would create an artificial impression of smoothness and correctness
that is not real. Further, this study is seen as an exploration of the
application of more systematic methodological techniques in field exca-
vation. Analysis of data thus collected to an long-standing problem in
southeastern United States prehistory generates very interesting results.
Finally, it is intended to be a contribution to the status of knowledge
on the subject of southeastern shell ring sites. To this point, it is
a compilation of data presently available in the archaeological litera-
ture as well as a presentation of data resulting from field excavations
on Cannon's Point, St. Simon's Island, Glynn County, Georgia. It is
believed that such data be used for comparative purposes by investigators
considering the same or similar problems.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS H

PREFACE vl

LIST OF TABLES . x

LIST OF FIGURES . xi

ABSTRACT . . xfll

CHAPTER 1: SHELL RINGS IN SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

ARCHAEOLOGY .......... 1

Introduction ....... ... 1

The University of Florida St . S i mon ' s Island Archaeol o gical

Project 2

Southeastern Shel 1 Rings ..... 3

Previous Investigations and Interpretations . . 9

Chronological Assessment 13

The Cul tural Phenomena 15

CHAPTER 2: EXCAVATIONS ON CANNON'S POINT - PART 1:

SUMMER 1973, SPRING 197^ 19

Present Envi ronment . 19

Excavation Strategy : Objective and Techniques 2k

Summer 1973: Excavation Summary 25

Spring 1974 : Excavation Summary ........ 28

Prel iminary Observations 32

vi i



CHAPTER 3: EXCAVATIONS ON CANNON'S POINT - PART 2:

SUMMER 1974, WINTER 1975 ..... 37

Formulation of Hypotheses and Test Impl i cat Ions 37

Summer 1974 : Excavation Summary 39

Winter 1975 : Excavation Summary ** '

Summary of Excavation Findings ............... "

Evaluation of Hypotheses and Test Impl ications . ^

CHAPTER 4:". ANALYSIS OF EXCAVATED MATERIALS .......... Z|8

Radiocarbon Dates ..................... 48

Cul tural Remains ........ ....... 51

Faunal Materials 67

Floral Remains ........... ..... 78

Other Analyses .......... . 80



Consideration of Methods and Techni ques



82



CHAPTER 5: THE LATE ARCHAIC OCCUPATION OF CANNON'S POINT ... 89



Prehistoric Environment



89

91

96

102



Techno-envi ronmental Adaptation

Seasonal i ty and Sedentism .

Extra-areal Relationships ...

CHAPTER 6: POST-EXCAVATION ASSESSMENTS OF THE LATE ARCHAIC . . 105

The Cultural Phenomena '"-*

Relationships to Other New World Sites l °9

Summary and Conclusions 116

APPENDIX 1 ............. . 119

APPENDIX 2 130

APPENDIX 3 131

APPENDIX 4 134



APPENDIX 5 ..... • • • 1*0

APPENDIX 6 201

APPENDIX 7 2o6

APPENDIX 8 217

APPENDIX 9 220

APPENDIX 10 . . . . . . . . . i 225

APPENDIX 11 ........... . 2 32

APPENDIX 12 .................... • 2 33

APPENDIX 13 - 2 * 8

APPENDIX 14 ................. • . . 250

REFERENCES CITED . 2 53

BIBLIOGRAPHY 26 *



LIST OF TABLES

Table 1. Site Distribution ............. 6

Table 2. Ring Dimensions in Meters .......... ... 8

Table 3° Chronological Summary ...... . 16

Table k„ Radiocarbon Dates for Ring Sites ...... 35

Table 5° Radiocarbon Dates for Other Fibe r- Te mpered Sites ...... 50

Table 6„ Ceramic Distribution for the Cannon's Point Ring Sites ... 56

Table 7" Ceramic Distribution for the Marsh Cultural Level ...... 57

Table 8. Total Recovered Ceramic Material .............. 58

Table 9„ Composite Molluscan Species List ~ 9GN57, 3GN76 ....... 69

Table 10. Faunal Lists: 9GN57, 9GN76, and Marsh Cultural Level .... 71

Table 11. Dietary Contributions of Selected Species 75

Table 12. Seasonal Availability of Identified Flora .......... 79

Table 13- Human Skeletal Material ...... 83

Table H. Contribution of Screening by Weight of Processed

Material - 6S, 15E 85



LIST OF FIGURES



Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure
Figure



18 . .

19 ■ •

20 . .

21 . .

22 . .



20
21
26
31
132

133
202
203
20lf
205
218
219
226
227
228
229
230
231
237
238
Ikh



List of Figures - continued

Figure 23 . . . . • - 2Z »5

Figure 24 ........ - . . 246

Figure 25 • . . . . 24?



Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



CERAMICS, MOLLUSCS, AND SEDEflTISM:
THE LATE ARCHAIC PERIOD ON THE GEORGIA COAST



Rochelle A. Marrinan

August, 1975

Chairman: Charles H. Fairbanks
Major Department: Anthropology

Previous researchers have contended that during the Late Archaic Period
( ci rca 2500-1000 BC) , human groups on the present-day coast of South Caro-
lina and Georgia practiced a mollusc-centered subsistence strategy. The
abundance of molluscan resources has been viewed as evidence of a rela-
tively permanent residence pattern. This stable pattern of residence was
thought to have been instrumental in the innovation of fired clay pottery.
Today these former habitation sites exist as annular rings and amorphous
middens of molluscan debris.

Recent archaeological investigations on Cannon's Point, St. Simon's
Island, Georgia, in such habitation sites indicate that although molluscan
resources were obviously an important contributor to prehistoric subsistence,
crustaceans and vertebrate fauna (particularly fishes) also were critical
nutritional supplements.



Fiber -tempered ceramics, to date the earliest type of earthenware
reported in the United States, are present in all of the Late Archaic
Period sites excavated. Affiliations between Georgia fiber-tempered
ceramic decorative motifs and motifs associated with Orange pottery from
the St. John's River drainage in Florida are noted. This finding supports
the previous observation of Holder and others for the St. Simon's Island
area. The Georgia coastal ceramic tradition is considered influential
in the development of Orange ceramics.

Reconsideration of the generally accepted belief that decorated fiber-
tempered ceramics are later than plain ceramics is urged based on the findings
from the excavation of two shell ring sites (dated by radiocarbon at 22^0-
1815 BC and 191 0- 1 665 BC) . Decorated ceramics occur in these sites at all
levels, dating coevally with plain specimens. Reconsideration is also urged
for Waring's contention that the Bilbo-style engraved bone pins are a stylis-
tic development. Both of the two bone pin fragments recovered in the Cannon's
Point excavations were from a sub-shell stratum.

In the marsh surrounding the largest ring site, a cultural deposit was
exposed 0.5-1.0 meter beneath the present surface. The association of cul-
tural materials (ceramics, worked bone, lithics, flora, and fauna) with tree
stumps suggested that environmental change is evidenced in the immediate
vicinity of the ring sites. When deposited, the Marsh Ring accumulated in
a forest environment. Ceramics from this cultural deposit are both fiber-
tempered and grit-tempered; however, the manner in which deposition occurred
is unclear. Radiocarbon dates indicate that environmental change in this
area occurred after 835-820 BC.

Permanence of residential pattern cannot be fully evaluated at present.
Evidence suggesting a Spring-Fall occupation of the Cannon's Point sites



is considered tenuous at this time. Investigation of inland riverine sites
having fiber- tempered ceramics is needed to evaluate the relationship of
these biotopes to the coast.

Excavations in the Cannon's Point shell ring sites have demonstrated
that more systematic methods and techniques must be applied to data reco-
very* Perceptions of coastal cultural developments have been framed in
terms of cultural inventory and artifact attributes. Development of a
research strategy to Investigate the articulation between human culture and
physical environment is urged to provide an understanding of cultural events
during the Late Archaic Period.



CHAPTER I

SHELL RINGS in SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES ARCHAEOLOGY

Introduction



For thousands of years prior to the founding of European colonies
in the New World, native American populations experienced remarkable
variety in cultural complexity, geographical <Hs*tri but ion, and in their
use of environmental resources. Today archaeological sites are monuments
to this diversity of prehistoric lifestyles. Just as the strangeness
of such people and places promted early Europeans to attribute unusual
origins and abilities to native peoples, the Intricacies and apparent
inexpl icabi 1 it ies of human cultural remains still encourage some to
speculate novel derivations of human artifacts. It has been the task
of archaeology to attempt to demonstrate causality in the adaptability and
flexibility of mankind. To the student of prehistory change is perhaps
the most obvious fact and the one most challenging to explain. Plog
(197^:8) considers explanation of change to be the primary undertaking
of productive archaeological research. The methodology employed in
explanation is a critical issue in archaeology today for it is not
sufficient to simply " ... tie data to cultural phenomena ..." (Plog
\31kik) . Recovering significant archaeological data from field research
strategies having the objectives of hypothesis formulation and testing
affords the opportunity to investigate parameters germain to explication and
explanation of cultural processes (Binford 1962; Watson, LeBlanc, and Redman
1971). As a result of these objectives, contribution to the corpus of

1



2
anthropological knowledge may be achieved.

The present study demonstrates the use of archaeological data to
explain cultural phenomena. It proceeds from a review of the pertinent
archaeological literature to recognition of specific needs and problems
requiring further study within the research area. Hypotheses are generated
for field testing using excavation techniques selected to maximize data
recovery. Hypotheses, it should be noted, do not spring forth at the need
of the investigator. Rather, they are usually the result of continuing
research. In this study, it should be made clear that the status of
information regarding the research topic was not sufficient enough to
support more than very general hypotheses at the outset. As excavation and
more importantly analysis progressed, data suggested direction for
inquiry. Hypotheses were generated to structure excavation strategy and
future analysis. Working hypotheses will be explicitly stated in Chapter
2 and 3-

The University of Florida St . Simon' s I sland Archaeological Project

Dr. Charles H. Fairbanks and Dr. Jerald T. Milanich of the University
of Florida Department of Anthropology were approached in 1972 by Sea
Island Properties, Inc., regarding a proposed archaeological survey of
Cannon's Point, St. Simon's Island, Glynn County, Georgia. Several sites of
known archaeological interest were in areas scheduled for development
promting the landowners' concern for recovery and preservation of
prehistoric and historic materials. Ruins of the Couper Plantation were
listed in the National Register of Historic Palces. Excavations in the
extensive shell heaps on the property had been made by Preston A. Holder
during the late 1930's. Human skeletal remains were frequently exposed
in plowed fields. A shell ring site was identified by a site survey
team in 1972.



3
A grant (#GB-3?889) to support excavations was awarded by the
National Science Foundation (Fairbanks and Milanich) in 1973- Field
research began in that year. Investigation of the changing relationships
between man and his environment during the period 2000 BC and AD 1865
was the organizational theme of the project. The presentation and
discussion which follows concerns the Late Archaic aspect of the project
( circa 2000-1000 BC) . Field research and analysis were also supported
by funds from the Sea Island Foundation.

Southeastern Shel 1 Ring Sites
Structures of unusual size, location, composition, or configuration
have been popular subjects for study and speculation: pyramids, henges,
and earthen effigy mounds are but a few examples. Accounts of early
travelers, proceedings of learned academies, and personal letters
document the interest in such sites. William McKinley of Mil ledgevi 1 le,
Georgia, wrote of circular shell heaps on Sapelo Island, Georgia, in 1872.
His letter to the Smithsonian Institution is included in the Annual Report
for that year (McKinley 1873: *»22-J»28) . Apparently this is the first
mention of a shell ring site. The first excavations at Sapelo were some
twenty years later. Clarence B. Moore and field party conducted excavations
within the largest shell enclosure (1897: 71-73). As a result of Moore's
coastal investigations, two other shell ring sites were reported (1899).
However, because large quantities of artifacts were not forthcoming, Moore's
group shied away from further excavations in ring sites. Fifty years
later, the first scientific investigation of a shell ring was headed by
Antonio J. Waring, Jr., in the largest Sapelo Island ring (Waring and
Larson 1968: 263-278).

Circular accumulations of shell dot the barrier islands along the



k

coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Shell ring sites are located on the
first barrier island, or as is more commonly the case, on islands in the
lagoon and estuaries between the initial barrier and the mainland.
Ring sites are frequently located in salt marsh environments. At this time,
known distribution is limited to the states of South Carolina and Georgia.
South Carolina reports twenty-two; Georgia has at least half that many.
Table 1 summarizes published distributional information. It is possible
that two additional shell ring sites exist in Florida (Talbot Island,
Jupiter Island). The cultural inventories of these sites do not exhibit
any similarity to Georgia and South Carolina sites. Oysters ( Crassostrea
virginica) are the most abundant constituents, but other species are
present, particularly clam ( Mercenaria sp.) whelk ( Busycon carica ) , and
ribbed mussel ( Geukeysia demissa) . While most species are estuarine,
several terrestrial forms are observed. In addition to molluscs, sediment,
vertebrate remains and human cultural materials are present.

Dimensions of the shell rings are extremely variable (Table 2).
In general, diameter ranges from 37 to hS meters. Height also varies
considerably, a result to some extent of time and weathering. All
measurements are given in metric. While a few rings have a complete
circular contour, most are incomplete in some aspect. Erosion, shell
borrowing, and initial construction design may account for this.

Speculations regarding ring function began with McKinley's (1873)
suggestion of use for games, ceremonials, or torture. Since that
time, additional hypotheses have been offered. Moore (1897), as
another possible explanation, considered fortifications. Waring and
Larson concluded that the Sapelo Island rings were public in nature and




FIGURE 1. Shell Ring Site Distribution.



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9
represented some " . .. ceremonial or social arrangement ... " (1355-60:
273)= After excavations in the Sewee Mound ring in South Carolina,
Edwards concluded that the site represented the remains of an aboriginal
fishtrap (1965)= Refuse debris from internal pile dwellings is another
suggestion (Caldwell as quoted in Crusoe 1973). Unpublished sources
have contended that these sites were supports- for structures built
directly on the midden accumulation or protection fot dwellings
located within.

It should be mentioned at the outset that some argument exists
regarding ring origin as being of natural construction rather than
human. Proponents of the natural origin view contend that redeposition of
naturally occurring oyster bars and human cultural debris by storms and
currents is responsible. Clarence B. Moore was convinced of their
human origin but interested himself in determining them to be aboriginal
rather than English. This study suggests human construction responsible
for ring sites. Data supporting this contention will be presented
in Chapter 3-

Previous Invest igat ions and Interpretations

An examination of the results of four shell ring site excavations is
made at this point since information from these sites comprises the foundation
for existing interpretations of prehistory during the Late Archaic.
The relevant sites are Sapelo Island Ring Number 1 (Waring and Larson 1955-60
263-278), Sewee Mound (Edwards 1965), Hilton Head Island Rings (Calmes
1968), and Fig Island (Hemmings 1970a, 1970b). Because the following
comments are general considerations, the reader is referred to Appendix 1
for a detailed summary of information available for these sites.



10
Previous excavation strategy followed two basic approaches. Waring and
Larson and Hemmings excavated 10-foot wide trenches from approximate
ring center through the shell deposit to the exterior edge. Edwards and
Calmes selected a smaller sampling size (5-foot square units) and
tested more locations within the site.

Excavation techniques varied significantly. No use of screens is
reported by Waring and Larson or Calmes. Hemmings used 1/4- inch
screen as a standard at Fig Island and relied on window screen for separating
material recovered from features. After observing the quantities of
faunal material lost through 1/4- inch screen, Edwards changed to 1/8
inch. Additionally, he used water separation in the screening process.

Location of sites presented some logistical problems for investigators.
Hemmings and Edwards experienced tidal innundation during excavation


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Online LibraryRochelle Ann MarrinanCeramics molluscs and sedentism : → online text (page 1 of 12)