Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jan F. Simek

Committee Members

Charles H. Faulkner, Sarah C. Sherwood


The Southern Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee is an area characterized by the presence of thousands of caves and perhaps tens of thousands of rock shelters which served many purposes during the prehistoric Woodland Period (ca. 1000 B.C.-1000 A.D.). This thesis will discuss two Woodland rockshelter sites situated along the western escarpment of the South Cumberland Plateau.

The Griffin Rockshelter is a relatively small sandstone shelter which contains a predominantly Late Woodland archaeological component. Recovered artifacts consist of a wide assortment of material remains including fauna, shell, and lithics, and over 700 pottery sherds. In addition, the shelter contains engraved petroglyphs which line the interior. The Uzzelles Site, on the other hand, consists of Early Archaic through Late Woodland occupations based on the presence of recovered cultural materials. This shelter does not contain rock art.

This thesis presents investigations of both assemblages using a multi-faceted approach, consisting of detailed typological analysis accompanied by the use of X-ray fluorescence techniques to explore variation in pottery paste composition. Rather than determining the geographic origins of the pastes themselves, this methodology will provide information on how paste composition varies with respect to chronology and site function. The operating assumption is the “provenience postulate” which states that significant differences among pottery pastes reflect varying geographic locales for the parent material, clay, while homogeneous paste compositions indicate a narrow, localized area of clay resource acquisition. In short, understanding the variation that is present in pottery pastes from two functionally different rock shelter sites provides an initial step towards understanding the culture history and changing land use patterns of this unique geographic region.

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