3D Caddo Chalices from the Turner Collection

While an advocate for digital technology, particularly those efforts that aggregate archaeological resources that may not be available for research or comparative studies in the future, having the opportunity to see the Caddo vessels from the Turner Collection first-hand has been very inspiring.

Blog_CaddoChalice O NAGPRA 521
Sliced 3D model profiles of O NAGPRA 2012.1.521 from 41CP5 in the Turner Collection.

Blog_CaddoChalice O NAGPRA 520
Sliced 3D model profiles of O NAGPRA 2012.1.520 from 41CP12 in the Turner Collection.

Generally speaking, Caddo chalices are thought to represent a ceramic manufacturing practice aimed at emulating (metal?) chalices used by European interlopers. Links between Caddo chalices and the de Soto/Moscoso expedition have been put forth in previous archaeological studies (Perttula 1992; Turner 1978, 1992); and more recently (2008), Ross Fields posited that the chalice recovered from the Pine Tree Mound site (41HS15) in Harrison County, Texas may also be representative of interaction with the de Soto/Moscoso entrada into Texas. He supported this by plotting both the location of the Pine Tree Mound site and the route of Trammel’s Trace, which he accompanied with information collected from various narratives available from that period.

In following with Fields’ hypothesis, I enlisted the aid of Dr. Kelley Snowden, who recently georeferenced the various historic maps that discuss/plot the route of Trammel’s Trace (also known as Caddo Trace or Hasinai Trace). In viewing the various routes paired with geographic locations where Caddo chalices have been found, there does seem to be a strong correlation between the two.

Composite map of Trammel’s Trace routes noting sites with Caddo chalices (Red Stars) (per Fields 2008). Image appears courtesy of Dr. Kelley Snowden.

While rare within Caddo artifact assemblages, the chalice may be evidence of some of the earliest interactions between the various local Caddo polities and Europeans. Additionally, it represents another ill-understood element of Caddo culture that highlights just how much more we have to learn about this pivotal period in our shared history.

Each chalice appears to be unique, and aside from the base and stem, all seem to incorporate some element of Caddo design; whether that is represented in the form of decorative motifs (engraved/incised designs) or the vessel shape (bowl + stem and base, compound bowl + stem and base, etc.).

While I do not have time to delve further into this topic at the moment, it is very interesting, and I do plan to return to it after the conclusion of our current project.


This project is funded by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.


Written by zselden

My research is focused at the confluence of archaeology, engineering, computer science, and the humanities. I am particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, archaeological theory, and archaeological science.