The Mid-Atlantic Steatite Belt: Archaeological Approaches to Traditional Knowledge and the formation of Persistent Landscapes
Author(s): Heather Wholey
In the Mid-Atlantic, steatite outcrops within the eastern talc belt, which runs from Alabama, through New England to Labrador. It is a porous, carvable stone with a mineralogical and chemical makeup that inhibits soil formation, resulting in scrub or barren landscapes that host rare grasses and wildflowers. In their natural state, these would be striking landscape features. While an array of items, such as plummets, bannerstones and pipes, were produced from steatite throughout pre-colonial times, the craft of carving open vessels peaked during the Transitional Period. Though several locales may supply steatite, only some appear to have been used for extraction, and finished vessels are found up to 300 kilometers from these source locations. Traditional knowledge about the environment is often observable to us through ethnography, local toponomy, or oral history. Much of the Mid-Atlantic region lacks access to these rich sources. Yet traditional knowledge is also manifest in the physical construction of persistent landscapes as people visit and revisit places, infusing them with meaning and memory. This work addresses how archaeology helps to understand how people developed traditional knowledge of resources in the past, and how archaeology may be a partner in the contemporary cultural re-imagination of relict landscapes.
Cite this Record
The Mid-Atlantic Steatite Belt: Archaeological Approaches to Traditional Knowledge and the formation of Persistent Landscapes. Heather Wholey. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429704)
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
min long: -84.067; min lat: 36.031 ; max long: -72.026; max lat: 43.325 ;
Abstract Id(s): 15103