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Steatite Vessel Manufacture in Eastern North America

James Truncer


In temperate eastern North America, steatite vessels have an unusual distribution – widespread (ranging from New Brunswick, Canada to Louisiana) but apparently short-lived (approximately 1800 - 800 B.C.). Consequently, they have been of unusual interest to archaeologists and commonly used to date assemblages typologically. This study examines the veracity of this distribution and why steatite vessels display this distribution. Why did steatite vessel manufacture occur when and where it did? Why did steatite vessel manufacture not occur sooner or last longer? Why do steatite vessels occur in the frequencies they do across space and through time? The larger issue addressed in this study is technological change. By taking a scientific approach, the results of this investigation are able to be independently tested. A scientific approach allows knowledge to accumulate precisely because the results or conclusions can be shown to be wrong or incomplete. This study provides an example of how technological changecan be examined in the archaeological record from a scientific perspective.