Early Contact Period Shell Trade and Bead Manufacture at a Cayuga Iroquois Site

Author(s): Nina Schreiner; Kathleen M. S. Allen

Year: 2017


During the early contact period in Northeastern North America, Native groups traded with both other Native groups and a variety of Europeans. Early trade began on a small scale with all parties eager to gain goods. Investigations at Carman, a Cayuga Iroquoian (Haudenosaunee) site occupied in the late 1500s, produced a quantity of shell beads, along with a small number of metal items refashioned from European copper and brass fragments. This paper is an analysis of the worked and unworked shell from the site. The majority of shell beads found at Carman are discoidal, likely used for personal ornamentation, and the standardized shapes of these beads hint at manufacture using shell column blanks traded west from the Atlantic coast. In addition, the large quantity of shell material (more than 50 beads and 675 g of unworked shell) found at this domestic site, along with apparent bead blanks, suggests that shell bead manufacture occurred at Carman. The shell and shell bead data situate the Cayuga within local and regional trade networks. This analysis also sheds light on changing processes of trade, manufacture, and adornment in the early contact period.

Cite this Record

Early Contact Period Shell Trade and Bead Manufacture at a Cayuga Iroquois Site. Nina Schreiner, Kathleen M. S. Allen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429185)

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Geographic Keywords
North America - Northeast

Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16695