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Transformation by fire: Human cremation, metalworking, and the transmogrification of bodies by flame in the Late Archaic American Southeast

Author(s): Matthew Napolitano ; Matthew C. Sanger

Year: 2015

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Summary

A copper band recovered from a Late Archaic burial located on St. Catherines Island, Georgia, demonstrates the earliest use of metal objects in the region. This discovery shows that copper usage in the American Southeast, largely thought to relate to Hopewellian and Mississippian influences, has a greater antiquity and distribution than previously assumed. A reassessment of the copper found within the burial dates to the Archaic throughout the Eastern Woodlands; chemical analysis shows the existence of wide-ranging trade networks between the Great Lakes region and the American Southeast. These networks are discontinuous and focused on specific locales, which distinguishes them from the more evenly distributed trade routes found in later periods. This variability is best interpreted as relating to different types of trading partnerships based on diachronic political, demographic, and mobility patterns. The placement of copper within a cremation—a practice also found at contemporaneous sites along the Great Lakes—suggests that copper was not simply traded but was instead part of a larger cosmological vision that likely included a particular conception of personhood, bodily composition, and relation between fire and material transmogrification.

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Transformation by fire: Human cremation, metalworking, and the transmogrification of bodies by flame in the Late Archaic American Southeast. Matthew Napolitano, Matthew C. Sanger. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395556)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America