Deptford culture

Deptford culture
Approximate distribution of Deptford culture based on academic text.

The Deptford culture (2500 BCE100 BCE) was characterized by the appearance of elaborate ceremonial complexes, increasing social and opolitical complexity, mound burial, permanent settlements, population growth, and an increasing reliance on cultigens.



Deptford is named for the Deptford area of south Savannah, Georgia. Origins of the Deptford culture are not established though most archaeologists argue for stationary (situ) development. Views differ on the chronological divisions for Deptford but most concur with three phases of Early Deptford, Middle Deptford, and Late Deptford (W.H. Sears, 1962)

Population sites

The Deptford sites can be found from eastern North Carolina along the east coast to Florida.

Both Florida locations represent significant inland Deptford period sites.


Early Deptford ceramics appear to have been developed in Georgia around 2,600 years ago out of the Early Woodland Refuge phase (near Savannah) some 3,200 to 2,600 BCE years ago, and spread north into South Carolina and North Carolina and south into Florida. Deptford ceramics continued to be made and found on Middle Woodland sites in the southeastern U.S. until about 600 BCE. Occupation for the Atlantic coastal plain of Georgia and the Carolinas seems to have followed a seasonal pattern of winter shellfish camps on the coast, then inland occupation during the spring and summer for deer hunting, and fall for nut gathering.[4]

From the Early through the Middle Woodland periods, the extensive, low-lying coastal environment of the South Atlantic coast, stretching from North Carolina to northern Florida, was used by numerous Deptford hunter-gatherer bands who lived seasonally within a variety of ecosystems and took advantage of seasonally available foods.

Along the Gulf Coast, the Deptford culture continued the seasonal existence throughout the Middle Woodland. Settlements in this geographical area lacked permanence of occupation, although the cultures here participated in the Hopewellian trading network to a limited extent and constructed numerous low sand burial mounds. These sand burial mounds along coastal Georgia and Florida (noted at Canaveral National Seashore and Cumberland Island National Seashore, for instance), as well as in the Carolinas, are believed to represent local lineage burial grounds rather than the resting place of an elite individual.

In northwestern Florida, the Early Woodland Deptford culture evolved in place to become the Santa Rosa-Swift Creek culture. Trade items recovered from burial mounds include copper panpipes, ear ornaments, stone plummets, and stone gorgets. These show this area's incorporation within the Hopewellian Interaction Sphere by about 1,900 years ago.


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