This Page has been updated! If you are a return visitor you will need to reload/refresh your browser in order to see any new content.
THE AMATEUR ARCHAEOLOGIST ONLINE
AN ARCHAIC EFFIGY BEAD FROM PENINSULAR FLORIDA
By Richard Michael Gramly PhD,
American Society for Amateur Archaeology
North Andover, Massachusetts
The known distribution of zoomorphic effigy stone beads dating to the Middle and Late Archaic period has been confined to five Southeastern states, namely, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama with Mississippi having the highest number in private and public collections (Crawford 2003: 76). Here is reported the first discovery of one of these remarkable artifacts in Florida. Since a source of the bead's raw material (red jasper) is not present in Florida and its style and execution are identical to specimens from Mississippi, evidently the bead was introduced from afar — likely by direct exchange or trade.
Location of the Discovery
According to Rex Jones, his digging yielded numerous stemmed, flaked stone points, potsherds and "camp debris." In his opinion the most noteworthy discoveries were a complete Middle Archaic projectile point of the Newnan type (restored from two fragments found 20-40 feet apart) and a figural bead made of red stone. He assumed that the raw material of the bead was catlinite — something he had encountered from time to time on historic Iroquoian archaeological sites in his native New York state.
Attributes of the Bead (Figs. 2 and 3)
The legs of the composite animal and its head are modeled as tabs, which is a convention that is observed among some Archaic stone beads of the Southeast (Crawford ibid.: Figs. 7 and 11). These tabs are only slightly less thick than the animal's body, which is 6.7 mm. The length of the body is 34.1 mm; while, its maximum height (measured from hind feet to tip of tail) is 18.6 mm.
The raw material of the bead is jasper, colored "moderate red, 5R 4/6" as referenced in the U.S.G.S. Rock-Color Chart (1975). The weight of the artifact is a scant 5.7 grams.
A good deal of what is known about the manufacture of beads, from preliminary stages to the finished product, is based upon discoveries of caches or groups buried together. The most informative group is the Keenan bead cache, which came to light during the 1870s in Lawrence Co., Mississippi (Connaway 1981). Like the Rex Brown find from Florida, specimens of the Keenan cache were made of red jasper. Likewise, the Fulton and Carpenter caches analyzed by Crawford (Ibid.) are dominated by this raw material. Among these caches beads sculpted as mammals with tab head and feet plus an upturned tail predominate. They are incredibly similar in shape and size to one another and to the specimen from Florida.
Additionally, the writer has observed isolated red jasper mammal effigy beads in the Kent Westbrook collection that are identical in most of their attributes to the bead from Florida. Even the diameters of the longitudinal perforation of the Rex Brown bead are close matches to specimens owned by Westbrook. These correspondences — despite the hundreds of miles separating eastern peninsular Florida and southern Mississippi — bespeak manufacture by ancient craftsmen who belonged to the same atelier.
Jessica Crawford has drawn our attention to a cluster of effigy bead occurrences along the Gulf of Mexico at the mouths of the Pascagoula and Pearl Rivers (Ibid.: Figs. 28 and 32). She has designated this grouping the "Pascagoula/Pearl Cluster" (Ibid.: 90). Perhaps within this part of Mississippi (Figure 4) was an embarkation point for coastal traders who were bound for Florida population centers? All in all, an ocean route between Mississippi and Florida may have been the easiest for traders to follow and — apart from storms on open seas — the safest one as well.
I wish to thank author, Jessica Crawford, for providing me a copy on diskette of her thesis and collector, Dr. Kent Westbrook, who furnished a printed and bound copy of Jessica's thesis.
Ford, James A., Philip Phillips, and William G. Haag
Lehman, Geoffrey R.
Neuman, Robert W. And Nancy W. Hawkins
United States Geological Survey
Captions and Figures (click images for a large view)
The Amateur Archaeologist welcomes articles and communications from members; please note that authors waive any claim to copyright if they submit materials for publishing in the Society's journal.
Advertisers are welcome, and they need not be members of the ASAA. Please write for advertising rate cards and specifications. The Society does not furnish its membership list to anyone or any organization for promotional mailings.