Stephen F. Austin State University

News

SFA's Center for Regional Heritage Research scans hundreds of Caddo ceramic pieces as part of preservation grant

November 30, 2016 - University Marketing Communications
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Center for Regional Heritage Research at Stephen F. Austin State University has successfully scanned and modeled in 3-D more than 400 Native American ceramics as part of a $39,600 grant awarded in 2014 by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

With grant efforts concluding, the center has been able to both digitally preserve and study hundreds of Caddo vessels obtained from archaeological sites throughout East Texas and streamline a methodological approach that will assist similar future endeavors to study variations in vessel shape, form, allometry and asymmetry.

"The project went exceptionally well," said Dr. Robert Z. Selden Jr., research associate at the CRHR. "In terms of working with 3-D data, we are one of the few labs in North America, really in the world, that are dealing with these issues in an effort to push us into a more dynamic realm to where we can start asking much more pointed questions about specific elements of artifact geometry."

The grant from the funding agency, which is part of the National Park Service, supported the 3-D scanning, processing and analysis of the artifacts, offering researchers unprecedented access to these important historical objects. The images are stored in a digital repository for future research, while the sacred vessels themselves will be returned to the Caddo in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

"We were able to refine and streamline our entire process," Selden said. "We found a way to approach the analysis of vessel form that was more rigorous. The whole of the procedure is replicable, ensuring that other researchers could use our data to arrive at the same conclusions. The high degree of variability in Caddo ceramic technology and design makes their vessels particularly well-suited for this manner of inquiry."

While previous Caddo ceramic research has focused on classifying the artifacts by motif and design elements, Selden said the project has allowed him and other scholars at the CRHR to delve further into the rich stories that lie behind the objects' varied shapes.

Though grant funds have been exhausted, the CRHR will continue scanning pieces as part of a larger, ongoing 3-D mapping project. Overall, approximately 2,500 scans of Caddo vessels are archived in the center's online database, hosted through ScholarWorks. Visit scholarworks.sfasu.edu/crhr to access, view and manipulate the scans.