Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert H. Tykot, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah R. Taylor, Ph.D.


pottery, communities of practice, Florida archaeology, Woodland Period


The ceramic assemblage from previous excavations at Crystal River (8CI1), a Woodland period mound center on Florida’s west-central coast, exhibits variation in temper and surface treatments indicative of distinct pottery traditions and, perhaps, social groups. I analyzed ceramics from recent, better controlled excavations at Crystal River and the neighboring and partially contemporaneous site of Roberts Island (8CI41), using the theoretical framework of communities of practice to evaluate this claim.

Analysis suggests that while some degree of diversity in paste was maintained through all four phases, there was greater homogeneity of paste, as well as more mixing of paste categories, during Phases 2 and 3. The former was an interval marked by intensive settlement at Crystal River, and the dominance of limestone tempered pottery suggests the emergence of a common, locally-based pottery making tradition. A switch to sand as a tempering agent in Phase 3 probably reflects greater dispersal of settlement, and specifically a shift to the occupation of coastal islands.

Trends in surface treatments may also appear to reflect changes in settlement, although the pattern here is less straightforward owing to broader trends in ceramic decoration. The vast majority of pottery in each phase is plain, but plain pottery is particularly dominant (and the diversity of surface treatments correspondingly low) during the peak in settlement in Phase 2. As with temper, this may suggest that pottery making practices converged, as initially disparate groups lived together in closer proximity, perhaps creating a common social identity. As settlement became more dispersed in Phase 3, pottery making traditions again became more diverse. This perhaps reflects increased isolation of households, although it no doubt also stems from a regional trend toward more variety in ceramic decoration. In Phase 4, plain pottery again became dominant, a trend typical of the terminal Late Woodland.

In general, the analysis suggests that temper and surface treatment track changes in settlement, and thus might be reasonably inferred to also track the extent to which potters shared pottery making practices, and perhaps social identities. Communities of practice thus provides a useful framework for understanding how social identities are expressed through technological and stylistic practices.