Vessels of Change: Everyday relationality in the rise and fall of Cahokia

Author(s): Melissa Baltus

Year: 2016


By replacing representational thinking with a relational perspective, archaeologists hope to better understand the past-as-lived and experienced. Here I seek to locate the relational in the “mundane”, with a consideration of pottery production, use, and deposition as part of the many changing relationships associated with the urbanization and abandonment of the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia. These relationships include pastes as well as potters, engaging humans and non-humans, in the shifting array of social agents throughout the life of a Cahokian vessel. New relationships are formed in deposition, especially among vessel portions that are intentionally deposited in the wall trenches of certain buildings, in posts, or as foundation or termination deposits in refuse pits. New vessel forms, production techniques, and paste recipes are associated with moments of transformation at Cahokia, suggesting relationships with and through pottery were actively entangled in the broader social milieu. Simultaneously, this paper is self-critical, asking whether we begin seeing relationality where perhaps it was not conceptualized or experienced in the past. I explore some of the problematic aspects of engaging with a relational ontology as filtered through western archaeological theory by critically examining the utility and validity of such a project.

Cite this Record

Vessels of Change: Everyday relationality in the rise and fall of Cahokia. Melissa Baltus. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403336)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;