An Enduring Contribution: Following Larson's Lead on Pottery Change in the Mission Period

Article excerpt

Larson's (1978) early synthesis of change in Native American lifeways as a consequence of Spanish missionization was the basis of much of the subsequent research into Mission period effects. Larson was the first to describe changes in prehistoric and historic Guale Indian pottery as part of a detailed description of other cultural features. However, information on the timing of these changes has been slow to develop and detailed descriptions of changes outside of mission contexts remain limited. In this paper, analyses of pottery assemblages from two sites with possible protohistoric and early historic components on the central Georgia coast, Meeting House Fields and Pine Harbor, are presented. These are compared to results of a long-term study of Guale Indian pottery change from A.D. 1300 to 1702. Results indicate a precipitous rise in incising and the resurrection of older rim treatments in the later contexts at Pine Harbor. These changes, along with an overall increase in heterogeneity of the pottery assemblage in historic Guale pottery assemblages, may be useful in identifying historic Native American sites in the absence of European artifacts.

In 1978, Lewis Larson published "Historic Guale Indians of the Georgia Coast and the Impact of the Spanish Mission Effort," a distillation of his research on Guale Indian lifeways and the changes consequent to Spanish missionization. Larson's discussion, which described a Pine Harbor "complex" that was immediately post-contact and a Sutherland Bluff complex that was post-1600, framed much of the ensuing discussion of the consequences of missionization on the lower Atlantic Coast (see also Larson 1953, 1955, 1958, 198Oa, 198Ob, 1984).

Larson (1978:138) wrote that "Spanish contact was reflected dimly in pot manufacture." Though there were widely acknowledged changes between the prehistoric Irene and historic Altamaha pottery, these were seen as a continuation of drift1 in surface decoration and rim treatments that had begun in the early Irene period; these frequency changes in surface decoration and rim treatments were used in establishing phases within the Irene and Altamaha periods (Table 1) (e.g., Braley 199Oa, 199Ob; DePratter 1991). In brief, incising increased after its introduction on the coast around A.D. 1450, as did plain and burnished plain wares (in part because most of an incised vessel is burnished plain or plain). There was a consequent decrease in stamping. Because this same trend appeared in the comparison of the prehistoric and historic components at Harris Neck (Braley, O'Steen, and Quitmyer 1986), it appeared that these changes continued into the Mission period. In addition, land and groove width increased markedly from the Irene to the Altamaha period and curvilinear elements in the filfot-stamp paddle disappeared.

Plain rims were the most prevalent type throughout the Irene phase. In addition to plain, the earliest rim elaborations (also present on Late Savannah wares) were composed of rosettes, nodes (relatively large, circular to oval appliqué), pellets (smaller circular appliqués), and plain appliqué rim strips, or some combination thereof (see Figure 1, 1-4). Somewhat later, nodes, pellets, and plain rim strips disappeared, and segmented rim strips became the most popular treatment after unmodified rims; in addition, there were combinations of rim strip elaborations, such as segmented and cane-punctated rim strips (Figure 1, 6-7). During the very late Irene phase, rim strips were most commonly segmented or cane punctuated (Figure 1, 5), and punctation directly on the vessel wall (Figure 1, 8; called "decorated" rims in this paper) became common.2

By the Altamaha period, folded rims replaced appliqué strips, but the folds still bore the punctations that had previously graced the appliqué strips. Otherwise rims were most commonly plain or incised. Though decorated rims were increasing through the Irene phase, they became far less frequent in Mission period contexts (see Braley, O'Steen, and Quitmyer 1986; Cook 198Ob; DePratter 1984; and Pearson 1984 for more information on diagnostic changes in Guale pottery). …