Deerskin production and prestige goods acquisition in Late Woodland and Early Historic Southwest Virginia

Lapham, Heather Alynn, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Hantman, Jeffrey, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Shepherd, John, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Smith, Bruce, University of Virginia
Wattenmaker, Patricia, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Zeder, Melinda, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

This dissertation investigates the use of deer and deerskins in late Late Woodland (ca. A.D. 1400-1600) and Early Historic (ca. A.D. 1600-1700) contexts as a window on the changing economic organization and intergroup sociopolitical relations of Native American groups occupying southwest Virginia in the seventeenth century. My research merges two often distinct data sets: faunal remains and mortuary assemblages. These data are used to track both the products Native Americans produced for interregional trade (deerskins and other furs) as well as those received in return (European and native prestige goods). Zooarchaeological analyses provide insights into subsistence practices, deer hunting strategies, and deer hide production activities, while an examination of the mortuary assemblages contributes information on the access and distribution of nonlocal goods acquired through the trade in processed deerskins. In situations of intercultural contact, European powers are often viewed as a catalytic force that had an impact on indigenous cultural systems, and they were to some extent, but these were also forces that certain segments of Native American society (i.e., individuals or social groups) could have used and manipulated to their own benefit. I argue that the international market for North American deerskins gave some Native Americans the opportunity to enhance and strengthen their own position and power by trading hides for nonlocal goods that would have been symbols of wealth and prestige within the native community. My research provides several lines of evidence for culture change in the Early Historic period. In the seventeenth century, venison becomes a more important dietary resource as deer are increasingly hunted for their hides and the processing of these hides intensified. The distribution of the nonlocal goods received in return for processed hides suggests that certain individuals were more active participants in the trade, and that they did indeed profit from this commerce.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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