Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Christa M. Beranek

Second Advisor

David B. Landon

Third Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski


This thesis analyzes the formation of early English colonial trade networks through an examination of three Plymouth Colony sites. This research compares the 17th-century ceramics from Burial Hill (a recently discovered section of the core of the initial settlement, 1620-c. 1660) to two homesteads established later by Plymouth colonists, the Alden First Home Site (c. 1627- c. 1697) and the Allerton/Prence/Cushman Site (1631-c. 1691). A minimum number of vessels was established for each site and the country of origin was established for each vessel to determine the origin of consumer goods, specifically ceramics, in Plymouth Colony. These vessels were then divided up into “English” and “foreign” categories, and a chi-square analysis was conducted to determine whether the composition of ceramics was significantly different at Burial Hill than at the later two sites.

By comparing a site that likely pre-dates the implementation of most of the Navigation Acts (1651, 1660) to two sites that continue decades after their passage, it is possible to determine whether there was a significant effect on Plymouth’s trade. The results of this analysis demonstrate that the difference between Burial Hill, the Alden First Home Site, and the Allerton/Prence/Cushman Site with respect to proportions of English to foreign vessels is not statistically significant. This suggests that the percentage of foreign vessels did not significantly change over time. In addition, there were more diverse English and foreign ware types found at the later sites than at Burial Hill. Combined with documentary evidence, this indicates that the Plymouth colonists were skirting regulations and establishing their own personal and intercolonial trade networks, even as the English government tried to limit them.