Shells, Drills, and Lithic Tools: Indirect Evidence of Textile Production at a Mississippian Frontier

Author(s): Maureen Meyers

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Textile Tools and Technologies as Evidence for the Fiber Arts in Precolumbian Societies" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Textiles served as symbols of status and ideological belief systems in Southeastern Mississippian chiefdoms. They also were markers of identity. Remains of fabric are not often found in the Southeast, due to poor preservation in the region. Those that have been analyzed reveal that a range of colors was used to indicate status and that fabrics were often decorated with ornaments. The evidence of textile production in the Southeast should therefore also include evidence of dyeing fabrics and production of ornaments. Such ornaments likely included shells, as seen on fabrics at sites like Cahokia. The 14th century Mississippian frontier Carter Robinson site in southwestern Virginia contains some evidence of textile production but more substantial evidence of fabric dyeing and ornament production. This includes the presence of over dozens of shell beads showing all stages and multiple methods of bead production, two kilograms of modified gastropod shell, dozens of drills and lithic tools, and possible evidence of mordants for dyes. Specifically, the shell appears modified to more easily sew onto fabric. This paper will present this evidence and specifically examine how the dyeing and ornamenting of textiles functioned within a frontier hierarchical economy.

Cite this Record

Shells, Drills, and Lithic Tools: Indirect Evidence of Textile Production at a Mississippian Frontier. Maureen Meyers. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451878)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.735; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -73.389; max lat: 39.572 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23316