Steatite characterization using X-ray fluorescence and insights into Northern Iroquoian interregional interaction

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 20 (2018)
Travis W. Jones, Jennifer Birch, Ronald F. Williamson, Timothy J. Abel, Robert J. Speakman, and Louis Lesage

The research presented here evaluates the applicability of energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) for characterizing steatite. We present compositional data from an assemblage of 100 steatite beads and pipes deriving from 11 Northern Iroquoian sites in southern Ontario and New York State. Percentages of major elemental constituents and principal components analysis define two compositional groups and various non-steatite artifacts. Our results suggest that EDXRF is an expedient means of characterizing steatite based on major oxides and trace elements. The results support the assertion that individual Iroquoian communities were involved in distinct interaction networks that linked groups in southern Ontario and the St. Lawrence Valley region.

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