University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Shell Objects

Submitted by mccaffer on Fri, 03/07/2008 - 2:25pm

Shell objects provide evidence for long-distance exchange, since they were obtained either from the Gulf Coast or the Pacific Ocean. Shell was used primarily for display, as pendants or as pieces woven into elaborate textiles. Thus the use of shell is associated with the representation of wealth, but may also relate to ethnic identification with coastal peoples.

Thirty-five pieces of shell were recovered at UA-1 (Figures 174-175). In the preliminary analysis (Wolfman 1968:29), 18 pieces of worked shell were classified following the system proposed by Kidder, Jennings, and Shook (1946:145-152) (Table 49).



(after Wolfman 1968:29)


Pierced bivalves 3

Pendants 2

Tinklers 1

Tinklers without holes 2

Pierced gastropod 1

Fragments with ground edges 7

Unknown 2






Figure 174. Shell objects from UA-1



Figure 175. Shell objects from UA-1

The UA-1 assemblage included unworked and worked shell, as well as pieces that represent an interupted stage in the manufacturing process. Based on this evidence, it is pos-sible that shell working was practiced in the surrounding area, although the low number of shells present indicates that the UA-1 excavation did not intersect the primary production center.

The spatial distribution of shell objects is presented in Figure 176. The majority of shell (60%, n=21) was found in the upper levels. Of the shell found in the occupation levels, 3 pieces came from the trash midden, and two pieces were found associated with the burials in N2/W1. The remaining pieces from Structure 1 were located on the porch areas just outside of the doorways.

No comparable data is known for shell densities within excavated contexts upon which to base interpretations. Subjectively, this seems like a fairly high amount of shell for such a small area. If so, then it would suggest a relatively high degree of wealth, as well as a possible affiliation with Gulf Coast ethnicity. Alternatively, if the UA-1 site was adjacent to a shell manufacturing area, the occupants may have participated in the production and/or distribution of shell ornaments.




Figure 176. Spatial distribution of shell objects

Site Admin