Carpenter Brook revisited: Social context and early Late Woodland ceramic variation in central New York state
Smith, Donald A, Jr
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This project explores if and how early Late Woodland (AD 1000-1300) potters from central New York State varied attributes of their wares to reflect the needs of the social contexts in which they intended the vessels to be used. I focus on the pottery from the Carpenter Brook site in Onondaga County. William Ritchie, who excavated the site in 1946, argued it was the remains of ritual activity. Thus, differences in the attributes of its ceramic assemblage relative to those of pots from village sites might reflect some ways in which potters manufactured vessels they intended to be used during ritual differently than those they used in 'everyday' contexts. To investigate this issue, I compare the pots from Carpenter Brook with those of three early Late Woodland villages: Maxon-Derby, Bates, and Sackett. Before doing so, I revisit Ritchie's interpretation of Carpenter Brook which merits revision given the decades of methodological and theoretical advances in archaeology since the time he excavated there. I employ a 'cognitive processual' approach to analyze the site. The results indicate that Ritchie was likely correct in his conclusions that the site was related to ritual activity and that religious ideas about bears played some role(s) in how people acted there. Beyond this, however, their conceptions regarding ceramic vessels and the watery setting of the site--factors he overlooked--also appear to have been important in those ceremonies. The ceramic analyses indicate there are significant technological and decorative differences between the pottery from the brook and that from the village sites. The Carpenter Brook vessels have greater diameters on average, indicating more of them were used for cooking for larger numbers of people. Their walls have qualities that, while relatively easier and faster to manufacture, were not durable in the extreme temperature changes encountered during cooking. However, the brook pots also have larger amounts of decoration; their larger diameters to not account for the disparity. These results suggest potters intended the vessels from the brook to be used differently than those they manufactured for 'everyday' use.