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The Swift Creek Gift

Vessel Exchange on the Atlantic Coast

Written by Neill J. Wallis

Publication Year: 2011

A unique dataset for studying past social interactions comes from Swift Creek Complicated Stamped pottery that linked sites throughout much of the Eastern Woodlands but that was primarily distributed over the lower Southeast. Although connections have been demonstrated, their significance has remained enigmatic. How and why were apparently utilitarian vessels, or the wooden tools used to make them, distributed widely across the landscape?


This book assesses Woodland Period interactions using technofunctional, mineralogical, and chemical data derived from Swift Creek Complicated Stamped sherds whose provenience is fully documented from both mortuary mounds and village middens along the Atlantic coast. Together, these data demonstrate formal and functional differences between mortuary and village assemblages along with the nearly exclusive occurrence of foreign-made cooking pots in mortuary contexts. The Swift Creek Gift provides insight into the unique workings of gift exchanges to transform seemingly mundane materials like cooking pots into powerful tools of commemoration, affiliation, and ownership.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

I have benefited tremendously from many people in the course of this research. This work was heavily reliant on existing collections, and I simply could not have carried it out without the generosity and helpfulness of all the people and institutions that made loans to me. ...

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pp. 1-11

Bronislaw Malinowski (1922) was the first to suggest that non-Western economies could be fundamentally different from Western markets in terms of how exchange systems were organized, how value was determined, and what motivated people to exchange. ...

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1. What is a Gift?

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pp. 12-27

The gift has been a seminal idea in anthropology for the better part of a century, in its various guises informing considerations of economy, social solidarity, and human nature. Originally published in 1925, Marcel Mauss’s The Gift is at once abstruse and rich with meaning, ...

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2. The Swift Creek Cultures

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pp. 28-52

The Swift Creek archaeological culture is defined almost exclusively by the production and use of complicated stamped pottery across the Woodland period lower-southeastern United States. Specifically, Swift Creek Complicated Stamped pottery became popular circa AD 100 ...

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3. Cultural History and Archaeological Overview

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pp. 53-86

This chapter presents an overview of Woodland period archaeology on the Atlantic coasts of Georgia and Northeast Florida, focusing on local manifes-tations of the Swift Creek archaeological culture. In many ways, the coastal sectors of Georgia and Northeast Florida were different from one another ...

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4. Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis: Patterns of Swift Creek Interaction

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pp. 87-114

The complicated stamped designs on Swift Creek pottery often provide compelling evidence for social interaction across the landscape, but the potential of these serendipitous data is only beginning to come to fruition as they are combined with detailed considerations of context. ...

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5. Petrographic Analysis: Patterns of Swift Creek Interaction

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pp. 115-136

The effectiveness of Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) in differentiating local and nonlocal pottery has been questioned (Shrarer et al. 2006; Stoltman et al. 2005; Stoltman and Mainfort 2002). Specifically, James Stoltman and colleagues (2005:11214) argue that petrographic point-count data ...

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6. The Form, Technology, and Function of Swift Creek Pottery

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pp. 137-191

Swift Creek pottery has already proven to be an excellent time marker for seriation and, through the reconstruction of designs, a useful database of social interaction. However, these data tell us little about the utilitarian functions of vessels, which are critical to understanding their roles in the social lives of people. ...

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7. The Swift Creek Gift

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pp. 192-208

The exchange of Swift Creek Complicated Stamped vessels was an important social practice that, on the Lower St. Johns River at least, became inextricable from mortuary ceremony. The specific contexts of production and deposition and the apparent functions of these vessels reveal the signatures of gifts that were transformed into significant citations ...


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pp. 209-240


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pp. 241-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384845
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356293

Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 745697217
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Swift Creek Gift

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Swift Creek Site (Ga.).
  • Woodland culture -- Atlantic Coast (South Atlantic States).
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Atlantic Coast (South Atlantic States).
  • Social archaeology -- Atlantic Coast (South Atlantic States).
  • Indians of North America -- Atlantic Coast (South Atlantic States) -- Antiquities.
  • Atlantic Coast (Ga.) -- Antiquities.
  • Indian pottery -- Atlantic Coast (South Atlantic States) -- Analysis.
  • Ceremonial exchange -- Atlantic Coast (South Atlantic States) -- History.
  • Social interaction -- Atlantic Coast (South Atlantic States).
  • Atlantic Coast (Fla.) -- Antiquities.
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