An Examination of Toyah Social Complexity, by Eric Schroeder

Eric Schroeder is a UT graduate student and archeological researcher. This article appeared in the September 2017 TARL newsletter.


One aspect of my current research is examining the ethnohistoric and archeological evidence for social complexity during the Toyah interval. Inspired by the ethnohistoric accounts of native Jumano leaders including Juan Sabeata, Tuerto, and the Catqueza leader Don Nicholas, where these special status individuals are portrayed as organizers of large Native coalitions, as well as being widely traveled diplomats and traders, I am looking into the Toyah material record for evidence of socially complex phenomena such as ceremony, ritual, violence, exchange, and aspects of labor organization.

Figure 1. The travels of Juan Sabeata (ca. 1683 to 1692).

In addition to synthesizing the available mortuary data in an attempt to identify regional patterns related to social inequality, I am particularly interested in sites that contain evidence of communal activities such as organized hunting, feasting, and commodity production. Items associated with ritual and ceremonial significance such as rock art, large food processing features, and smoking pipes play a large part in my analysis of the intersite data, as well as evidence of long-distance exchange and craft production. This investigation into craft production has directed me toward a study of Toyah blade and ceramic technologies. In this regard, I am investigating whether blade technology functioned as an efficient means of mass-producing a stone tool kit focused around the production of hide commodities.

In reference to ceramic technology, I hope to provide information on the variability expressed among Classic Toyah pottery to evaluate whether there existed a standardized production process that may have been organized and controlled under a certain set of cultural/ideological parameters. The intended outcome of this study is to systematically identify present data gaps and future research trajectories under a more humanistic model, one that goes beyond purely environmental determinants and has the power to add new understanding into the origin and spread of the Toyah cultural phenomenon.

Figure 2. The Bridwell Site blade cache.

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