Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Charles H. Faulkner

Committee Members

Jan F. Simek, Benita J. Howell, Lydia M. Pulsipher


Three interrelated interpretive themes are explored in this dissertation through reference to the Gibbs farmstead (40KN124), a domestic site in north Knox County, Tennessee, that was inhabited by four successive households of the Gibbs family between circa 1792 and 1913. The topics of rural economy, material life, and temporal process guide inquiry in this study. World systems theory is used to examine how aspects of the emerging global system influenced daily life and household-level economic strategies among a rural family in Southern Appalachia, considered to be an internal periphery within the world system. Historical information indicates the Gibbs family participated within the commercial economy for most of their occupation of the farm, and produced agricultural surplus well above local, and in some instances, national-level averages. Based on the practice of partible inheritance, in which resources are equally divided between siblings, it appears the Gibbs family subscribed to the concept of rural patrimony. This rural ideology emphasized long-term maintenance of the lineal family, the homeplace, and transmission of the means of production to successive generations. The idea of material life developed by French social historians in the Annales School is used to explore how economic strategies influenced the standard of living practiced by the Gibbs family. Focusing upon the domestic landscape, architecture, and household items, consideration of material life reveals the presence of a strong folk orientation among the Gibbs family that was also substantially influenced by larger trends within national-level consumerism and popular culture. Folk elements are indicated by log architecture and a prominent pork and redware foodways complex. Concerning the topic of popular culture, in the area of domestic architecture, the expansion and renovation episodes of the dwelling during the middle 19th century appear to mirror the functional compartmentalization of domestic space that occurred among most middle class farm residences in North America. Likewise, assembled information indicates the Gibbs family actively acquired expensive consumer items, such as pewter and transfer printed tableware. In contrast, the use of expensive tableware was balanced by heavy reliance upon redware, an inexpensive utilitarian ceramic, and modestly priced painted tableware for everyday use. Regarding the topic of temporal process, this study introduces a new method to historical archaeology called time sequence analysis. This method allows detailed and fine-grained reconstruction of the diachronic consumption dynamics associated with households in the past. In this study, specific artifact categories are quantitatively linked to successive, multigenerational household cycles associated with the Gibbs family through correlation analysis. Results of analysis indicate household cycles significantly influenced material consumption in the areas of faunal resources, redware, tableware, and clothing items.


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