Glass Beads, Copper, and Stone Tools: Examining Agency and Variability in Native American-Colonial Trade Relations in Seventeenth-Century Virginia

Fedore, Michael Andrew, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Hantman, Jeffrey, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
LaViolette, Adria, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

This thesis examines models that emphasize the active role Native Americans played in reshaping their own lives in response to European colonialism. In this thesis, I synthesize archaeological data from twenty sites across Virginia occupied by Indians in the seventeenth century. I chose to focus on sites with artifact assemblages containing objects of European origin, while remaining cognizant of the fact that this potentially excluded many places where people did not engage in colonial trade. The ultimate goal of this research was to attain a better sense of the diversity present within a geographically and temporally varied subset of colonial-era archaeological sites in order to help expand understandings of Native American life in that time period. The sites were all previously excavated and were analyzed through the study of published and unpublished artifact analyses. The sites are located in different geophysical provinces and were occupied by many distinct cultural and linguistic groups. These factors influenced my thinking about the variation I encountered. Such variation was apparent in the differing quantities of European artifacts recovered on sites, as well as the range of raw materials from which they were made. On several sites, these objects had been found almost entirely within burial features and in association with Native-produced artifacts. On other sites, the context of deposition was less clearly definable. European objects held different meanings for the people who used them. By comparing these twenty sites, it was possible to materialize the differing ways in which Native people conceptualized and responded to some aspects of European colonialism.

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MA (Master of Arts)
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