Seeing red: an analysis of archeological hematite in east central Missouri

Daniel E. Pierce, Patti J. Wright, Rachel S. Popelka-Filcoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Ceramic and chert artifacts constitute the main evidence for understanding trade and cultural dynamics in prehistoric eastern Missouri. But despite its relative ubiquity, hematite, most often characterized as ochre, has rarely been considered for such research. To partially fill the void, neutron activation analysis (NAA) was utilized to analyze collections of hematite artifacts excavated from the Truman Road Site (n = 31) and other nearby sites (n = 7) in the lower Missouri River valley. Our results indicate no significant temporal or spatial patterning of its usage or acquisition. Similarly, low correlation exists between the chemistry and artifact type. Furthermore, the assemblage is compositionally distinct from previously analyzed source samples from elsewhere in Missouri. Therefore, the origin of the artifacts remains undetermined. Although they could not be linked to a single acquisition locale, the results suggest at least two separate, although possibly related, sources. Overall, this study serves to increase our understanding of the characterization and diversity of hematite and its usage in prehistoric Missouri.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Number of pages20
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2020


  • Hematite
  • Long-distance exchange
  • NAA
  • Ochre
  • Prehistoric America
  • Prestige goods
  • Provenance


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