Swift Creek Culture

Swift Creek archaeological culture refers to Woodland prehistoric cultural groups in Georgia who manufactured a distinctive pottery type. This pottery, generally termed Swift Creek Complicated Stamped, is noted for its distinctive decoration. Complex curvilinear patterns were first carved into a wooden paddle, which was used to stamp the design into the soft clay walls of the pottery before it was fired.
The name for this pottery and culture resulted from archaeological work done under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., and sponsored by the federal Works Progress Administration at the Swift Creek site in Macon from 1933 until the end of the decade. Precisely when and where this pottery type developed, however, is unknown. Its presumed core area is the modern state of Georgia, but it has also been found in neighboring states, particularly northern Florida. Kolomoki State Park, near Blakely, was a Late Swift Creek site that had cultural ties to northern Florida.
Radiocarbon dates from a number of sites suggest the time range of approximately 20 B.C. to A.D. 805. The pottery style changed over time. Early Swift Creek vessels were deep jars with notched or scalloped rims; Late Swift Creek vessels were bowl forms with folded rims.
Given the geographic range and the 825-year period during which this pottery was popular, it is unlikely that the term Swift Creek culture refers to a single group of people. Probably several cultural groups shared this particular pottery style. There are certainly indications of widespread trade among peoples during this time period, and the pottery may well have been one of the items of exchange. For example, Swift Creek people at the Mandeville site in southwest Georgia are known to have had contact with peoples in Illinois and Florida.
Relatively little is known about aspects of the Swift Creek archaeological culture other than the consummate woodworking skill evident in the pottery. Based on archaeological and anthropological research in other regions, it is presumed that the Swift Creek peoples engaged in the cultivation of such plants as sunflower and squash to supplement their hunting and collecting of wild foods. Some social stratification may have existed; for the most part, however, Swift Creek peoples lived together as equals in small but permanent villages, with kinship playing a major role in their social and civic life.
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Further Reading
David J. Hally, ed., Ocmulgee Archaeology, 1936-1986 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994).

Mark Williams and Daniel T. Elliot, eds., A World Engraved: Archaeology of the Swift Creek Culture (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998).
Cite This Article
Smith, Betty A. "Swift Creek Culture." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 09 January 2014. Web. 23 June 2017.
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