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JournalAmerican Antiquity
DatePublished - Jan 2011
Issue number1
Number of pages39
Pages (from-to)41-79
Original languageEnglish


In Early Woodland times, the creation of vast interaction spheres resulted in the widespread circulation of various objects and raw materials across northeastern North America. In this article, I discuss the contexts and spatial distribution of Meadowood trade items from over 240 archaeological sites. Traditionally viewed by William A. Ritchie as cult- related items, Meadowood artifacts have subsequently been interpreted as participating in a risk- buffering strategy. Alternatively, I present arguments supporting the role of Meadowood artifacts as part of a strategy used by a few individuals or corporate groups to increase their status through privilege access to rare and highly valued goods. Socially valued goods can be used in multiple ways and documenting this complexity is a prerequisite to understanding the mechanisms underlying the circulation of goods within the Meadowood Interaction Sphere, the structure of the network, and the incentives of the participating groups. This article stresses the need to move beyond the dichotomy between utilitarian /subsistence- related goods and non- utilitarian/ritual artifacts.

Bibliographical note

Copyright ©2011 by the Society for American Archaeology.

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