Steed-Kisker Ceramics: Analysis of the Scott Site (14LV1082) Assemblage

By Trabert, Sarah | Plains Anthropologist, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Steed-Kisker Ceramics: Analysis of the Scott Site (14LV1082) Assemblage


Trabert, Sarah, Plains Anthropologist


One defining trait of the Steed-Kisker phase, a Late Prehistoric culture of the Central Plains tradition (CPt), is its ceramics. They differ from the ceramics of other Central Plains tradition cultures in that they are predominantly shell tempered, with smoothed surfaces and occasional shoulder decorations. Previous data collected from the Scott site (14LV1082) indicate Steed-Kisker occupation, and the ceramics support this conclusion. Both qualitative and dimensional data have been collected from a sample of the sherds from this site and these data are compared to the Steed-Kisker (23PL13), Crabtree (23CL164), Cloverdale (23BN2), Friend and Foe (23CL112), and DB (14LV1071) sites. Comparison shows variation among sites and within the Scott site assemblage. The Steed-Kisker and Crabtree sites exhibit no indication of contact with groups of other CPt phases, whereas the Scott site assemblage includes three ceramic examples related to the Nebraska phase of the Central Plains tradition. The Scott sample contains mostly Platte Valley Plain ware, with relatively few examples of Steed-Kisker Incised.

Keywords: Central Plains tradition, Steed-Kisker, ceramics, Scott site

The people that occupied northern Kansas, northwestern Missouri, southwestern Iowa, and most of Nebraska during the Late Prehistoric period (1,000 to 500 years ago) are grouped into the Central Plains tradition and the Pomona variant. The former consists of various phases that include Upper Republican, Smoky Hill, Nebraska, Itskari, St. Helena, and Initial Coalescent, as well as Steed-Kisker (Figure 1) (Roper 2006). This study describes the Scott site (14LV 1082) ceramics and makes comparisons to other Central Plains tradition, Steed-Kisker phase ceramic assemblages. The Scott site is one the most systematically excavated Steed-Kisker phase sites to date, and the ceramic analyses and other data collected add valuable information to the limited literature available on the phase.

Central Plains tradition sites are characterized by square to rectangular lodges with central hearths and both interior and exterior cache pits. The houses were pole-supported structures plastered with wattle-and-daub and generally located on terraces or flood plains in river valleys; more rarely they were located on bluff tops overlooking the valley. The discovery of cultigens, scapula hoes, and projectile points indicates that the people had a diverse subsistence base that combined small-scale horticulture with hunting (Roper 2006).

Wedel (1943) was the first archaeologist to recognize Steed-Kisker as a distinct archaeological culture based on his excavations in Platte and Clay counties in Missouri (Figure 1). The type site was located on William Kisker's and C. A. Steed's property, and it, as well as the forthcoming phase, was named after them. A house structure was uncovered that was very similar to central Plains lodges in that it was rectangular with a central hearth, four central support posts, and an extended entryway. Nearby cache pits and middens yielded evidence of small-scale horticulture (corn cobs, husks, and stalks found) and hunting (deer, lynx, and canid) (Wedel 1943:71-72).

Ceramic variability is one of the traits that distinguishes Steed-Kisker from other cultures of the Central Plains tradition. Central Plains tradition ceramics are generally globular in form with variation in temper type and decorative treatment. Common tempers include sand, grit, grog, or shell, and decoration consists of incised lines, pinching, tool impressions, and the addition of appendages such as handles, lugs, and tabs to the rims and lips (Roper 2006). Pottery was abundant at Steed-Kisker, with 2,332 sherds unearthed; 279 of which were rims (Wedel 1943, 73-74). Most were shell tempered (n=2,077), which differed from the grit, sand, or grog temper used in pottery of other Central Plains tradition cultures. There were large and small hemispherical jars with constricted necks, flaring rims, and rounded undecorated lips.

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