Nation Building and Social Signaling in Southern Ontario: A.D. 1350–1650

PLoS ONE 11(5): Open Access Article
John P. Hart, Termeh Shafie, Jennifer Birch, Susan Dermarkar, Ronald F. Williamson

Pottery is a mainstay of archaeological analysis worldwide. Often, high proportions of the
pottery recovered from a given site are decorated in some manner. In northern Iroquoia,
late pre-contact pottery and early contact decoration commonly occur on collars—thick
bands of clay that encircle a pot and extend several centimeters down from the lip. These
decorations constitute signals that conveyed information about a pot’s user(s). In southern
Ontario the period A.D. 1350 to 1650 witnessed substantial changes in socio-political and
settlement systems that included population movement, coalescence of formerly separate
communities into large villages and towns, waxing and waning of regional strife, the formation
of nations, and finally the development of three confederacies that each occupied distinct,
constricted areas. Social network analysis demonstrates that signaling practices
changed to reflect these regional patterns. Networks become more consolidated through
time ultimately resulting in a “small world” network with small degrees of separation between
sites reflecting the integration of communities within and between the three confederacies.

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