Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman

Second Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski

Third Advisor

Dennis Piechota


Within the field of Chesapeake archaeology, studies concerning Native American ceramic tobacco pipes often focus on technological, morphological, or decorative aspects to create broad, regional typologies that potentially ignore diverse ideological and cultural meanings associated with pipes, such as intergroup social/political relations or ceremonial and ritual practices. While these typologies allow for broad, regional cultural affiliations to be identified, chemical composition analyses have the potential to help archaeologists determine the cultural and geographical sources of these pipes based upon the source clay material. This allows for potentially more nuanced discussions of larger cultural questions related to these pipes, such as interaction patterns between early colonial and Native American groups in the Chesapeake. This thesis uses portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF) in an attempt to determine the cultural or material source of Native American pipes recovered from early seventeenth-century contexts at the James Fort site in Virginia. Compositional data was recorded for both the James Fort pipe samples and a comparative collection of Native American pipes from 11 Late Woodland sites in the surrounding region. Multivariate analysis techniques, including cluster analysis and discriminant function analysis, were then used to identify potential patterns and provenience predictions for the unknown James Fort pipe specimens.

Due to the compositional complexity of source clay materials and a lack of compositional data for clay sources in the Chesapeake Bay region, pXRF analyses of the James Fort and comparative Native American pipe assemblages were unable to clearly identify the cultural or material provenience of the unknown James Fort pipe specimens. Although several groupings were observed within the cluster analysis results for the comparative pipe assemblage, none of the groupings corresponded to any expected grouping factors. With the addition of a regional database of clay sources, it is likely the methodology will be able to identify statistically significant groupings within the comparative Native American pipe assemblage and predict the provenience of the unknown James Fort pipe specimens. Although the study was not able to successfully evaluate the interpretive potential of pXRF in the sourcing of Native American ceramic pipes in the Chesapeake region, the current results clearly highlight the potential methodological and interpretive contributions possible by future regional pXRF studies.


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