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Southeastern Indian Textiles from the Prehistoric Period to Removal

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This podcast is part of the series: ArchiTreats: Food for Thought


Mary Spanos


Alabama Department of Archives and History


ArchiTreats: Food for Thought continues another year of informative talks on Alabama history at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Join us as Mary Spanos presents Southeastern Indian Textiles from the Prehistoric Period to Removal.

The textile history of the Southeast offers a complex and fascinating story that is unique among prehistoric cultures. Eight thousand years ago, Paleo-Indians left impressions of woven materials in clay-floor surfaces in Dust Cave in north Alabama. Southeast Indians in the Archaic era wrapped their dead in cloth before burying them in a bog in Florida. Two thousand years ago Woodland-era Indians, near present-day Fort Payne, covered their pottery with designs made by rolling cord-wrapped sticks in the soft clay or pre-fired pots. Five hundred years ago, Mississippian Indians left behind textile artifacts that included garments, bags, footwear, and images of textiles on pottery and copper ceremonial objects. The arrival of European settlers had a tremendous effect on the textile traditions of the Southeast Indians as cloth and clothing were very popular trade items between the indigenous population and the early settlers. By the 1830s, just prior to their removal from the Southeast, Indians were wearing traditional handmade textile accessories with their newly traded European clothing and were assembling cotton cloth factories to gin, spin, and weave the cotton they had begun to raise. An important textile artifact of that era, Osceola’s Garter, is part of the permanent collection at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Mary Spanos received an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Alabama. Her research focuses on the prehistoric and early historic textiles of the Southeastern region of North America and includes the technology and traditions of native societies and European settlers. She is currently responsible for the research, design, and production of the prehistoric and early historic costumes for the new archaeology museum under construction on the campus of the University of South Alabama. Prior to her research on prehistoric textiles, she was the associate editor and a frequent contributor to Spin-Off, a national magazine for hand-spinners.

ArchiTreats: Food for Thought lecture series is made possible by the Friends of the Alabama Archives. The public is invited to bring a sack lunch and enjoy a bit of Alabama history. Coffee and tea will be prolabama Archives. For more information, call (334) 353‐4726.

Length: 50:00

Content Areas: Social Studies

Alabama Course of Study Alignments and/or Professional Development Standard Alignments:

SS2010 (3) Geographic and Historical Studies: People, Places, and Regions
13. Describe prehistoric and historic American Indian cultures, governments, and economics in Alabama. (Alabama)
Examples: prehistoric—Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian
historic—Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek (Alabama)
  • Identifying roles of archaeologists and paleontologists
    SS2010 (5) United States Studies: Beginnings to the Industrial Revolution
    3. Distinguish differences among major American Indian cultures in North America according to geographic region, natural resources, community organization, economy, and belief systems.
  • Locating on a map American Indian nations according to geographic region


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