Frequency Seriation, Correspondence Analysis, and Woodland Period Ceramic Assemblage Variation in the Deep South

By Smith, Karen Y.; Neiman, Fraser D. | Southeastern Archaeology, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Frequency Seriation, Correspondence Analysis, and Woodland Period Ceramic Assemblage Variation in the Deep South


Smith, Karen Y., Neiman, Fraser D., Southeastern Archaeology


Temporal variation in ceramic-type frequencies often is used to order archaeological assemblages chronologically. Frequency seriation (FS) is one means to do this. If the pottery types used are historical, then frequency seriation is an appropriate method for deriving a chronological order of assemblages. If types measure time and, say, social status, then a frequency-seriation diagram will appear messy, or noisy, and deriving a chronological order will be less straightforward. Correspondence analysis (CA) can, when certain conditions are met, tease apart both temporal and nontemporal sources of variation. We explain why by highlighting the conceptual links between the models that are presupposed by CA and FS. The links imply that these methods are complementary and that, when used together, both can yield a deeper understanding of the causes of type-frequency variation than either can alone. We explore the practical implications for archaeological inference in two case studies of Middle and Late Woodland ceramic assemblages from sites located in the Deep South, primarily along the Gulf Coast and along the lower Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

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The purpose of this paper is to highlight the analytical power and complementarity of two methods, frequency seriation (FS) and correspondence analysis (CA), for building chronological sequences, exploring rates of change, and recognizing synchronie spadai variation, in the context of the precontact history of southeastern North America.1 We briefly review the conceptual models behind the FS and CA methods and describe links between them. Those links are not widely recognized in archaeology, yet appreciating them is critical to understanding why the two methods are so useful in combination. However, because our focus is on the utility of the methods to help archaeologists solve the vexing puzzles presented by real archaeological data, the bulk of our exposition is devoted to two case studies from the late prehistory of southeastern North America. We use the practical interpretive problems raised in the case studies to motivate the methodological discussion of FS and CA.

In the first case study, we examine how FS and CA can deepen our understanding of the traditional chronological framework for the Middle and Late Woodland periods in the Deep South. That framework, like those for most of the Southeast and elsewhere in North America, is based on phases. We show how FS and CA of assemblages from sites in central and southwestern Georgia, southeastern Alabama, and northwestern Florida can reveal empirical patterning that is hidden by the phase-based approach (Plog 1973; Flog and Hantman 1990:440-442) and raise new questions about rates of cultural change, regional demography, and temporal bias in archaeological samples.

The second case study examines the utility of the two methods at the intrasite scale. Here we focus on Kolomoki (9ERl ), one of the most important sites in the region (Pluckhahn 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003; Sears 1951a, 1951b, 1953a, 1953b, 1956, 1973, 1992; Smith 2005). We show how FS and CA can be used to resolve temporal and synchronie spatial sources of amongassemblage variation and reveal the emergence over time of sacred and secular activity areas at the site.

Woodland Chronology in the Deep South

Our first case study is set in a portion of the northwest Gulf Coast of Florida between Wakulla County on the east and Bay County on the west, and the inland region of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida drained by the lower Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers. Despite the area's physiographic diversity, we consider this region as a unit, in part because qualitative comparisons indicate similarities among material culture in general and ceramic art in particular. This is not surprising since the Chattahoochee/ Apalachicola River system likely served as a northsouth conduit for the intraregional movement of people and ideas.

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Frequency Seriation, Correspondence Analysis, and Woodland Period Ceramic Assemblage Variation in the Deep South
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