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The Measure of Meaning: Identity and Change among Two Contact-Period Cherokee Site Bead Assemblages

Author(s): Melissa Frederick

Year: 2016

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Archaeologists have studied bone, shell, and glass beads for several decades, in search of their meaning among Native American cultures. The significance of these small artifacts among the Cherokee is evident in their mythology, personal adornment, and rituals. Thus, they represent an integral part of Cherokee cultural identity. Previous archaeological research at 40GN9, linked to the sixteenth-century Cherokee town of Canasoga located in Tennessee, demonstrated the predominantly shell beads there remained largely standardized in shape and size with bore hole size and outer diameter changing at a consistent rate (Rich 2013). This study employs these same variables as well as color at Nvnvnyi (30SW3), an early Qualla phase (A.D. 1450-1650) site of the historic Cherokee occupation of western North Carolina, to investigate how Cherokee bead preferences and expression of cultural identity changed throughout time in response to European contact. 

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The Measure of Meaning: Identity and Change among Two Contact-Period Cherokee Site Bead Assemblages. Melissa Frederick. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 434741)


Temporal Keywords
Contact Period

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 557

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