Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Lynne P. Sullivan, David G. Anderson

Committee Members

Gerald F. Schroedl, Chad Black


The Protohistoric period in East Tennessee is poorly understood in the archaeological record and is defined as the intermediate period between the Late Mississippian and Historic periods in the seventeenth century. Earlier research focused on depopulation, population replacement, and the rise of Overhill Cherokee settlements in the eighteenth century, with little attention to the transitional Protohistoric period. The goal of this dissertation is to examine new fields of evidence and employ new dating methods in order to fully understand the Protohistoric period in East Tennessee

This dissertation does this in three ways. It explores three hypotheses concerning the habitation of East Tennessee, using extant archaeological collections and new theoretical models to redefine habitation patterns during the Protohistoric period. Second, using both pXRF and LAICP- MS analyses on European glass trade beads it creates a chronological sequence of chemical patterns corresponding to Native American habitation. Finally, it uses temporally sensitive ceramic rim metrics at the microseriation level to develop a transitional Protohistoric potting tradition exists between Prehistoric Mississippian and Historic Cherokee ceramics in East Tennessee.

This dissertation uses glass bead and ceramic collections from the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture and other comparative collections to show a continuous occupation of the East Tennessee Valley from the Prehistoric period into the seventeenth century. The data from the glass bead analysis shows continued habitation and stresses the importance of Native American middlemen in intercontinental trade. Instead of showing a clear transition from one tradition to the next, the ceramic data reveals an amalgamation of potting traditions incorporating both Prehistoric and Historic Native American traits. This mingling of traits suggests that the Prehistoric peoples of East Tennessee were not replaced by migrating Cherokee populations, but were instead a coalescent society formed during the Protohistoric period that helped to reshape the cultural and political landscape of East Tennessee.

Appendix II_Beads.xlsx (832 kB)
File 1: Glass Bead Data

Appendix III_Ceramics.xlsx (645 kB)
File 2: Ceramic Data

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