caddo, sem, scanning electron microscopy, shell temper, vitrification

SEM and Caddo Ceramics

We recently began what we are hoping will be a long-term study of Caddo ceramics using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to explore aspects of Caddo ceramic technological organization that have to this point been difficult to characterize.

SEM1.jpgWhile we began with an exploratory venture looking at the paste of Caddo vessels to see how much variation occurs in the vitrification of a small sample of sherds, this has since branched out into several smaller projects that will be complementary (different sites/time periods). We are enlisting a selection of sherds with different tempers/combinations of tempers to see how the various temper inclusions may alter the firing temperature at which vitrification occurs within a particular region.

SEM3.jpgSince vitrification is known to occur at different temperatures, depending upon the composition of the ceramic paste, we are proposing to conduct a series of refiring experiments to see how these changes occur when vessels are refired to specific temperatures incrementally. This could improve our understanding of the different firing temperatures used by Caddo potters. Admittedly, I am particularly interested to see whether differences might occur between fine and utility wares.

Additional lines of inquiry include exploring whether we can see noticeable differences in the vitrification present in ceramics from elite vs. commoner burials. This could provide clues to help us further extrapolate the nuances associated with the Caddo ceramic economy, and would be complementary to the suite of attributes regularly collected by ceramic analysts.

SEM5.jpgAlthough largely qualitative, these attributes may help to identify patterns of vitrification, which would help us to improve our discussions and interpretations of the Caddo ceramic economy and elements of craft specialization. While promising, this project remains in the developmental phase and we are working with scholars in archaeology, biology and geology as we continue to work through the analyses.

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Written by zselden

Selden (PhD, Texas A&M University, 2013) is a husband, father, US Marine Corps veteran, cyclist, kayaker, backpacker, hiker, climber, fisherman and general all-around outdoor enthusiast. His research is focused at the confluence of archaeological methods and digital technology, and he is particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, predictive modeling, archaeological theory, and archaeological science.