Review of Ceramic
from In and Around
the Mississippi Valley
This chapter summarizes published and unpublished ceramic compositional studies undertaken over the past half-century relevant to the archaeology of the Yazoo Basin and vicinity. In general terms, the objective of these studies has been to examine patterns of interaction among prehistoric populations, both within the Mississippi valley and between the valley and adjacent regions. Time periods addressed span the range from Late Archaic through Mississippian.
A number of projects have examined ceramic compositional variation in the Southeast and/ or in the Lower Mississippi Valley (LMV). Perhaps the closest project directly relevant to the study area is a pilot project by Peacock and his colleagues (Peacock et al. 2003) examining the possibility that consistent differences in shell temper composition could be used to identify pottery that moved between drainages. Although preliminary results are promising, no conclusive data bearing on prehistoric interaction patterns have yet emerged from this project.
Aside from the shell temper characterization work of Peacock and colleagues, ceramic-characterization studies in the Mississippi valley can be categorized as either based on mineralogical characterization of paste inclusions or on elemental characterization of whole ceramic pastes (including both clay and nonplastic inclusions). The former approach typically relies heavily on optical petrography, whereas the latter has relied most heavily on instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Because many more projects have been undertaken and many more samples have been analyzed via INAA, I devote most attention in this chapter to INAA studies. I present a brief summary of mineralogical studies first.