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Northeast Historical Archaeology

Abstract

A reawakening of interest in material culture has stimulated the examination of some small pewter castings in use among northeastern Native American peoples during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Reports by 17thcentury explorers and colonists, ·who found Eastern Woodland natives to be disinterested in gold and silver artifacts, are now better understood. The period from 1720 to 1750 was critical to the Lenape and other peoples who had just become major players in the fur trade to the Allegheny and Ohio River areas. During this period various silver-colored white metal castings may have been the precursors of sterling-quality silver trade items. Not until 1750 do some native groups in Pennsylvania and elsewhere begin to receive sterling silver trade goods in large numbers. The development of trade in silver objects may be an important indicator of cultural change among many Native American groups. The incorporation of silver-colored items into the colonial exchanges with the Lenape may be an archaeologically detectable indicator of this process. The development of trade in silver goods; possibly via a transitional phase involving pewter objects, reflects a period of transition among the Lenape and also may provide a means of evaluating patterns of cultural resistance to change.

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