Historical Archaeology

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 12–29 | Cite as

Markers of Difference or Makers of Difference? Atypical Practices at Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Satellite Sites, ca. 1650–1700

  • Kurt A. Jordan


This article examines social pluralism within politically autonomous 17th-century Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) communities. Haudenosaunee groups are known to have incorporated significant numbers of outsiders by processes of individual and group adoption. This article assesses the dynamics of social difference by looking at atypical practices in satellite communities in Seneca, Cayuga, and Mohawk territories. While previous scholars equated such practices with the presence of outsiders, atypical practices and the identities and labor relations associated with them are worth considering in a more fluid sense. Who would have continued, discontinued, or adopted practices that stood out from those of the majority? What sort of social roles or inequities went along with these sorts of distinctions? Documentary and archaeological data from these satellite communities suggest that social difference was pronounced in mortuary ritual, but muted in domestic settings, and that these differences were unlikely to reflect substantial social inequality.


Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) pluralism incorporation satellite communities 17th century indigenous sites identity politicsᅟ 


El presente artículo examina el pluralismo social dentro de las comunidades autónomas Haudenosaunee (Iroquesas) del siglo XVII. Los grupos Haudenosaunee son conocidos por haber incorporado niveles significativos de forasteros mediante procesos de adopción individuales y de grupo. El presente artículo evalúa la dinámica de la diferencia social examinando prácticas atípicas en comunidades satélite en los territorios de Seneca, Cayuga y Mohawk. Aunque estudiosos previos equipararon dichas prácticas a la presencia de forasteros, vale la pena considerar las prácticas atípicas y las identidades y las relaciones de la mano de obra asociadas a los mismos en un sentido más fluido. ¿Quiénes habrían continuado, discontinuado o adoptado prácticas que destacasen de las de la mayoría? ¿Qué tipo de papeles o desigualdades sociales iban con estos tipos de distinciones? Los datos documentales y arqueológicos de estas comunidades satélites sugieren que la diferencia social se pronunciaba en los rituales mortuorios, pero se enmudecía en escenarios domésticos, y que estas diferencias no era probable que reflejasen una desigualdad social sustancial.


Cet article examine le pluralisme social au sein des communautés Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), autonomes sur le plan politique, du 17e siècle. Les groupes Haudenosaunee sont connus pour avoir intégré un nombre important d’étrangers par des processus d’adoption individuelle et collective. Cet article évalue la dynamique de la différence sociale en examinant les pratiques atypiques dans les communautés voisines des territoires Seneca, Cayuga et Mohawk. Tandis que les chercheurs précédents ont assimilé ces pratiques à la présence d’étrangers, il convient de considérer les pratiques atypiques, les identités et les relations de travail qui leur sont associés dans un sens plus souple. Qui aurait continué, abandonné ou adopté des pratiques qui se démarquaient de celles de la majorité ? Quels types de rôles sociaux ou d’inégalités ont accompagné ces types de distinctions ? Les données documentaires et archéologiques de ces communautés voisines suggèrent que la différence sociale a été prononcée dans le rituel mortuaire, mais silencieuse dans les foyers, et que ces différences ne reflètent probablement pas une inégalité sociale substantielle.



I thank Bradley Phillippi and Christopher Matthews for their organization and guidance of this thematic issue. Initial versions of this paper were presented at the 2013 Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference in Chicago, Illinois, and the 2014 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Quebec City, Quebec. Brian Crane, Peregrine Gerard-Little, Russell Handsman, Karen Hutchins-Keim, Mima Kapches, Stephen Mrozowski, Jon Parmenter, Bradley Phillippi, Samantha Sanft, David Schoenbrun, Martha Sempowski, Stephen Silliman, and an anonymous reviewer provided comments and suggestions that greatly helped this paper. Robert Kuhn and Kimberly Williams-Shuker generously agreed to share images from their work. All mistakes and inadequacies remain my own.


  1. Amato, Christopher A. 2002 Digging Sacred Ground: Burial Site Disturbances and the Loss of New York's Native American Heritage. Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 27(1):1–44.Google Scholar
  2. Bakhtin, Mikhail 1982 The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, translators. University of Texas Press, Slavic Series, No. 1. Austin.Google Scholar
  3. Bhabha, Homi K. 1985 Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree outside Delhi, May 1817. Critical Inquiry 12(1):144–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhabha, Homi K. 1994 The Location of Culture. Routledge, London, UK.Google Scholar
  5. Bradley, James W. 2005 Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500–1655, reprint of 1987 edition with new afterword. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.Google Scholar
  6. Brander Rasmussen, Birgit 2012 Queequeg’s Coffin: Indigenous Literacies and Early American Literature. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.Google Scholar
  7. Braun, Gregory V. 2012 Petrography as a Technique for Investigating Iroquoian Ceramic Production and Smoking Rituals. Journal of Archaeological Science 39(1):1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Callender, Charles 1978 Shawnee. In Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15, Northeast, Bruce G. Trigger, editor, pp. 622–635. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  9. Cipolla, Craig N. 2013 Becoming Brothertown: Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  10. Connors, Dennis J., Gordon C. DeAngelo, and Peter P. Pratt 1980 The Search for the Jesuit Mission of Ste. Marie de Gannentaha. Office of Museums and Historic Sites, County of Onondaga Department of Parks and Recreation, Liverpool, NY.Google Scholar
  11. Cornwell, W. S. 1959 An Artificially Deformed Skull from the Dann Site. Bulletin of the New York State Archaeological Association 17:10–12.Google Scholar
  12. Creese, John L. 2016 Northern Iroquoian Deathways and the Re-Imagination of Community. In Death Rituals, Social Order, and the Archaeology of Immortality in the Ancient World: Death Shall Have No Dominion, Colin Renfrew, Michael J. Boyd, and Iain Morley, editors, pp. 351–370. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dean, Robert L. (editor) 1984 Archaeological Investigations at Gannagaro State Historic Site, Victor, Ontario County, New York, 1983–1984. Report to New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Waterford, from Dean & Barbour Associates, Buffalo, NY.Google Scholar
  14. Engelbrecht, William 2003 Iroquoia: The Development of a Native World. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.Google Scholar
  15. Ferris, Neal 2009 The Archaeology of Native-Lived Colonialism: Challenging History in the Great Lakes. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  16. Fox, William A. 2009 Events as Seen from the North: The Iroquois and Colonial Slavery. In Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone, Robbie Ethridge and Sheri M. Shuck-Hall, editors, pp. 63–80. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guldenzopf, David 1986 The Colonial Transformation of Mohawk Iroquois Society. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology, State University of New York at Albany, Albany. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.Google Scholar
  18. Hamell, George R. 1980 Gannagaro State Historic Site: A Current Perspective. In Studies on Iroquoian Culture, Nancy Bonvillain, editor, pp. 91–108. Franklin Pierce College, Department of Anthropology, Occasional Publications in Northeastern Anthropology No. 6. Rindge, NH.Google Scholar
  19. Hart, John P., Termeh Shafie, Jennifer Birch, Susan Dermarkar, and Ronald F. Williamson 2016 Nation Building and Social Signaling in Southern Ontario: A.D. 1350–1650. PLoS One 11(5):1–24. PLOS <>. Accessed 15 August 2016.
  20. Hayes, Katherine Howlett 2013 Slavery Before Race: Europeans, Africans, and Indians at Long Island’s Sylvester Manor Plantation, 1651–1884. New York University Press, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  21. Hill, Richard W., Sr. 2006 Making a Final Resting Place Final: A History of the Repatriation Experience of the Haudenosaunee. In Cross-Cultural Collaboration, Jordan E. Kerber, editor, pp. 3–17. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.Google Scholar
  22. Hoffman, Albert J. 1956 The McClintock Burial Site. Bulletin of the New York State Archaeological Association 7:3–5.Google Scholar
  23. Houghton, Frederick 1912 The Seneca Nation from 1685 to 1687. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 10(2):363–464.Google Scholar
  24. Jamison, Thomas R. 1998 Group Identity and Cluster Analysis: The Pen Site Cemetery, Jamesville, New York. Paper presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Anthropological Association, Orono, ME.Google Scholar
  25. Jones, Eric E. 2008 Iroquois Population History and Settlement Ecology, AD 1500–1700. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, State College. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.Google Scholar
  26. Jordan, Kurt A. 1996 Burial Summaries for Seneca Sites, ca. 1688–1754. Manuscript, Research Division, Rochester Museum and Science Center, Rochester, NY.Google Scholar
  27. Jordan, Kurt A. 2008 The Seneca Restoration, 1715–1754: An Iroquois Local Political Economy. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
  28. Jordan, Kurt A. 2013 Incorporation and Colonization: Postcolumbian Iroquois Satellite Communities and Processes of Indigenous Autonomy. American Anthropologist 115(1):29–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jordan, Kurt A. 2014 Enacting Gender and Kinship around a Large Outdoor Fire Pit at the Seneca Iroquois Townley-Read Site, 1715–1754. Historical Archaeology 48(2):61–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kent, Barry C. 1993 Susquehanna's Indians. Reprint of 1984 edition. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Anthropological Series No. 6. Harrisburg.Google Scholar
  31. Konrad, Victor 1981 An Iroquois Frontier: The North Shore of Lake Ontario during the Late Seventeenth Century. Journal of Historical Geography 7(2):129–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kuhn, Robert D. 1986 Indications of Interaction and Acculturation through Ceramic Analysis. In The Mohawk Valley Project: 1983 Jackson-Everson Excavations, Robert D. Kuhn and Dean R. Snow, editors, pp. 75–92. State University of New York at Albany, Institute for Northeast Anthropology, Albany.Google Scholar
  33. Kuhn, Robert D., David B. Guldenzopf, Pamela E. Sugihara, and Mary Schwarz 1986 The Jackson-Everson Site (NYSM 1213). In The Mohawk Valley Project: 1983 Jackson-Everson Excavations, Robert D. Kuhn and Dean R. Snow, editors, pp. 7–33. State University of New York at Albany, Institute for Northeast Anthropology, Albany.Google Scholar
  34. Kupperman, Karen Ordahl 2007 Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony, 2nd edition. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD.Google Scholar
  35. Liebmann, Matthew 2013 Parsing Hybridity: Archaeologies of Amalgamation in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico. In The Archaeology of Hybrid Material Culture, Jeb J. Card, editor, pp. 25–49. Southern Illinois University Press, Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper No. 39. Carbondale.Google Scholar
  36. Lynch, James 1985 The Iroquois Confederacy and the Adoption and Administration of Non-Iroquoian Individuals and Groups Prior to 1756. Man in the Northeast 30:83–99.Google Scholar
  37. Mandzy, Adrian Oleh 1990 The Rogers Farm Site: A Seventeenth-Century Cayuga Site. The Bulletin: Journal of the New York State Archaeological Association 100:18–25.Google Scholar
  38. Mandzy, Adrian Oleh 1992 History of Cayuga Acculturation: An Examination of the 17th century Cayuga Iroquois Archaeological Data. Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University, East Lansing.Google Scholar
  39. Merrifield, Edward 1915 The Story of the Captivity and Rescue from the Indians of Luke Swetland. Edward Merrifield, Scranton, PA.Google Scholar
  40. Parmenter, Jon William 2010 The Edge of the Woods: Iroquoia, 1534–1701. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.Google Scholar
  41. Parmenter, Jon William 2015 The Beaver Wars. In The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History, Antonio S. Thompson and Christos G. Frentzos, editors, pp. 33–41. Routledge, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  42. Poulton, Dana R. 1991 Report on the 1991 Archaeological Investigations of the Bead Hill Site, City of Scarborough, Ontario. Report to Parks Canada, Peterborough, ON, from Mayer, Poulton & Associates, London, ON.Google Scholar
  43. Richter, Daniel K. 1992 The Ordeal of the Longhouse. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  44. Schoff, Harry L. 1949 "Black Robes" among the Seneca and Cayuga. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 19(1&2):18–26.Google Scholar
  45. Scott, Patricia Kay 1998 Historic Contact Archaeological Deposits within the Old Fort Niagara National Historic Landmark. The Bulletin: Journal of the New York State Archaeological Association 114:45–57.Google Scholar
  46. Seaver, James E. (editor) 1990 A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison. Reprint of 1824 edition. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.Google Scholar
  47. Sempowski, Martha L., and Lorraine P. Saunders 2001 Dutch Hollow and Factory Hollow. Rochester Museum and Science Center, Research Records No. 24. Rochester, NY.Google Scholar
  48. Silliman, Stephen W. 2001 Theoretical Perspectives on Labor and Colonialism: Reconsidering the California Missions. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 20(4):379–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Silliman, Stephen W. 2015 A Requiem for Hybridity?: The Problem with Frankensteins, Purées, and Mules. Journal of Social Archaeology 15(3):277–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Skinner, Alanson 1921 Notes on Iroquois Archeology. Museum of the American Indian, Indian Notes and Monographs 18. New York, NY.Google Scholar
  51. Snow, Dean R. 1994 The Iroquois. Blackwell, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  52. Snow, Dean R. 1995 Mohawk Valley Archaeology: The Sites. State University of New York at Albany, Institute for Archaeological Studies, Albany.Google Scholar
  53. Snow, Dean R., and Kim M. Lanphear 1988 European Contact and Indian Depopulation in the Northeast: The Timing of the First Epidemics. Ethnohistory 35(1):15–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Snow, Dean R., Charles T. Gehring, and William A. Starna (editors) 1996 In Mohawk Country: Early Narratives about a Native People. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.Google Scholar
  55. Starna, William A., and Ralph Watkins 1991 Northern Iroquoian Slavery. Ethnohistory 38(1):34–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Statistics Canada 2014 Early French Settlements (1605 to 1691). Censuses of Canada, 1665 to 1871, Statistics Canada <>. Accessed 2 January 2015.
  57. Sublett, Audrey J., and Charles F. Wray 1970 Some Examples of Accidental and Deliberate Human Skeletal Modification in the Northeast. Bulletin of the New York State Archeological Association 50:14–26.Google Scholar
  58. Tanner, Tyree 2001 The Indian Castle Site at Onondaga (Cza 10-1) (ca. 1655–1663). William A. Beauchamp Chapter NYSAA Bulletin 8(1):1–49.Google Scholar
  59. Thwaites, Reuben Gold (editor) 1959 The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 73 vols. Pageant Book Company, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  60. Tuck, James A. 1971 Onondaga Iroquois Prehistory. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.Google Scholar
  61. Voss, Barbara L. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  62. Weiskotten, Daniel 2000 Patterns of Iroquois Burial. Dan Weiskotten's Iroquois Writings, Rootsweb <>. Accessed 2 January 2015.
  63. White, Marian E. 1966 The Orchid Site Ossuary, Fort Erie, Ontario. Bulletin of the New York State Archaeological Association 38:1–24.Google Scholar
  64. Williamson, Ronald F., and Debbie A. Steiss 2003 A History of Ontario Iroquoian Multiple Burial Practice. In Bones of the Ancestors: The Archaeology and Osteobiography of the Moatfield Ossuary, Ronald F. Williamson and Susan Pfeiffer, editors, pp. 89–132. Canadian Museum of Civilization, Mercury Series Archaeology Paper 163. Gatineau, QC.Google Scholar
  65. Williams-Shuker, Kimberly 2005 Cayuga Iroquois Households and Gender Relations during the Contact Period: An Investigation of the Rogers Farm Site, 1660s–1680s. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.Google Scholar
  66. Wood, Alice 1964 Historic Burials at the Boughton Hill Site (Can 2-2), Victor Twp., Ontario Co., N.Y. Bulletin of the New York State Archaeological Association 32:6–16.Google Scholar
  67. Wray, Charles F. 1973 A Manual for Seneca Iroquois Archeology. Cultures Primitive, Honeoye Falls, NY.Google Scholar
  68. Wray, Charles F., and Robert J. Graham 1960 New Discoveries on an Old Site: The Bunce Site. Bulletin of the New York State Archaeological Association 18:1–4.Google Scholar
  69. Wray, Charles F., and Robert J. Graham 1985 The Boughton Hill Site, Victor, New York. The Iroquoian: Newsletter of the Lewis Henry Morgan Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association 10:1–65.Google Scholar
  70. Wray, Charles F., and Harry L. Schoff 1953 A Preliminary Report on the Seneca Sequence in Western New York, 1550–1687. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 23(2):53–63.Google Scholar
  71. Wray, Charles F., Martha L. Sempowski, Lorraine P. Saunders, and Gian Carlo Cervone 1987 The Adams and Culbertson Sites. Rochester Museum and Science Center, Research Records No. 19. Rochester, NY.Google Scholar
  72. Wray, Charles F., Martha L. Sempowski, Lorraine P. Saunders, and Gian Carlo Cervone 1991 Tram and Cameron. Rochester Museum and Science Center, Research Records No. 21. Rochester, NY.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and American Indian and Indigenous Studies ProgramCornell UniversityIthacaU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations