Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Douglas B. Bamforth

Second Advisor

Scott G. Ortman

Third Advisor

Catherine M. Cameron


Chief Looking’s Village (32BL3) is found in present-day Bismarck, ND. An ancestral Mandan community occupied this site for a short period in the mid-1500s and built two distinctly different house types, one “local” and one “foreign” design. Temporally located during a time of change in the Heart River region when settlements were growing and congregating, groups from two different regions, traditionally identified as Middle Missouri and Coalescent, were coming together to form integrated settlements. The two housing styles indicate Chief Looking’s Village was on the precipice of this period of change, the transition from rectangular to circular houses. The goal of my research is to identify changes in style and the construction of identity during this period of change. As of this writing, ceramics have been excavated and analyzed from several storage pits tied to rectangular (local) house forms at Chief Looking’s Village. I compare these potsherds to those recovered from Double Ditch (32BL8), Scattered Village (32MO31), and Ona-Slant Village (32MO26), both from contemporaneous contexts and the early 1600s, after Chief Looking’s Village was abandoned. I applied an attribute analysis to these sherds, examining decorative techniques, patterning, and rim construction, to study style and identity synchronically and diachronically, throughout the region. I analyze these attributes of construction and decoration in different combinations to explore aspects of habitus and style, taking into account which techniques would be invisible to anyone other than the creator. Using Simpson’s Diversity index at several scales, I traced changes in style and habitus in households, sites, regionally, and through time. I compare the results of my decorative motif study to artifacts from the Lower Grand (39CO14) site in South Dakota, to see how changes in these attributes were influenced by Extended Coalescent people in the process of new identity creation. This project serves as a template for future work in the region, with the opportunity to incorporate additional sites to the analysis, as well as results from the Chief Looking’s Village 2016 excavation, in which both circular and rectangular house forms were specifically targeted.