Prestige Foods and the Adoption of Pottery by Subarctic Foragers


In the last two millennia before European contact, pottery technology was adopted by foragers across much of the southern Canadian Boreal Forest in response to the spread of Woodland (~100 BC – AD 1700) cultural influence. However, the function and importance of pottery in these northern societies remains unclear due to a combination of poor organic preservation, thin and disturbed stratigraphy, and limited archaeological exploration. In this study, we summarize the results of food residue analyses from 177 archaeological sites distributed across central Canada. We show that pottery was closely linked to the consumption of domesticated plants, especially maize (Zea mays ssp. mays), which in most areas of the Subarctic were probably only rarely available through trade or local cultivation. This, combined with other lines of evidence, suggests that pottery was reserved for socially-significant meals such as feasts and imbued with special ritual, culinary, and/or social meanings. We speculate that the spread of pottery technology across the region marks a subtle change in the symbolism, and perhaps importance, of intergroup reciprocity and cooperation during the Woodland period.

Cite this Record

Prestige Foods and the Adoption of Pottery by Subarctic Foragers. Matthew Boyd, Megan Wady, Andrew Lints, Clarence Surette, Scott Hamilton. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429216)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -142.471; min lat: 42.033 ; max long: -47.725; max lat: 74.402 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14306