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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Making Mission Communities: Population Aggregation, Social Networks, and Communities of Practice at 17th Century Mission Santa Catalina de Guale

  • Author(s): Blair, Elliot Hampton
  • Advisor(s): Lightfoot, Kent G.
  • et al.

This dissertation is an archaeological study of social relationships amongst the aggregated populations that formed the 17th century mission community at Santa Catalina de Guale—a Spanish mission located on St. Catherines Island, Georgia. I argue that despite the documentary history of factionalism and internecine warfare amongst the Guale people of the Georgia coast, the social consequences of intra-province relocation and aggregation within the Spanish missions of La Florida has been largely underexplored. I consider these issues by taking a microhistorical look at the community that formed at Mission Santa Catalina de Guale during this period, weaving together four independent lines of archaeological evidence to explore the dynamics of population aggregation and factional conflict in a colonial context. More broadly, this dissertation is a granular study of a pluralistic colonial community, grounded in a practice-based approach to the archaeology of colonialism and situated learning theory.

In chapter one of this work I argue that a close reading of the ethnohistorical sources suggests that “Guale” as a social identity is “overdetermined” and might not be a useful analytical category for examining the dynamics of colonial population aggregation. I suggest that this perspective, in combination with the documented history of population aggregation that occurred in La Florida, particularly during the latter portion of the 17th century, requires a fine-grained examination of social identity and intra-chiefdom diversity within the mission pueblos.

Following an overview of the history missionization in the region and a background of previous archaeological work, I elaborate in chapter three on a theoretical orientation framed around practice-based approaches to colonialism focused on exploring identities in pluralistic contexts. I suggest that an approach grounded in situated learning, that seeks to identify past communities of practice in the archaeological record, provides a methodology for using archaeological materials to explore social practice and identity without relying on, or ascribing, any particular predetermined category of identity to groups in the past.

After elaborating on this theoretical and methodological approach I present four sets of archaeological data that I use to explore social relationships and internal diversity at Mission Santa Catalina. In chapter four I discuss how various survey techniques (pedestrian, subsurface, topographic, and geophysical) provide a detailed picture of the spatial organization of the mission community. I use these surveys to define five distinct residential neighborhoods surrounding the central mission quadrangle that provide the spatial framework for the rest of the dissertation. In chapter five I review the history of archaeological excavations from each of these neighborhoods, focusing on the diversity of residential architectural practices.

In chapter six I present a detailed analysis of ceramics from the mission pueblo. Rather than identifying the ceramics primarily based on typology, however, I emphasize the spatial variation of small-scale design and technological attributes. Using this approach I identify ceramic micro-styles and potting communities of practice that vary across the mission neighborhoods. I suggest that the variability in ceramics evident between the different mission neighborhoods is a product of the aggregation of distinct potting communities at Mission Santa Catalina.

In chapter seven I shift scales and utilize the glass bead assemblage recovered from the mission cemetery in order to examine social relationships between individuals. I combine compositional and morphological analyses of the glass beads in order to trace the itineraries of these objects from European glass factories into the mission community. By following these objects from production to consumption I am able to create a formal social network model of the relationships and connections amongst individuals found within the mission cemetery and ultimately use these connections to define distinct bead-consumption communities of practice. I follow this by expanding the social network model to include assemblages recovered from the different residential neighborhoods—linking individuals buried in the cemetery and bead communities of consumption to specific residential neighborhoods in the mission pueblo.

In the final chapter I integrate these diverse data sets, considering how bead consumption networks, ceramic communities of practice, and residential architectural diversity intersect, presenting a complex picture of an aggregated population maintaining distinct social identities while also making a new colonial community.

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