Rare Marine Shell Artifacts Found in NSHS Archeological Collections

A photo of the runtee in the NSHS collections.


Two very uncommon artifacts made of Atlantic coast marine shell and called ‘runtees’ are in the NSHS collection of archeological materials from the Wright Site in Nance County. Wright was a large village occupied by the Pawnee in the 1600s and perhaps early 1700s. Trade bead specialist Bill Billeck of the Smithsonian drew our attention to their presence in the collections. These items are flat disks with longitudinal drilled holes for suspension on a cord presumably as personal adornment. Runtees were manufactured in the 1600s in New Netherland (New York and surrounding areas) for trade with the Iroquois and other northeast Native American tribes. They are exceedingly rare on the Plains although a few have been recovered from 1600s Arikara sites in South Dakota and an Omaha site on the Iowa-South Dakota border. These rare occurrences relate to early colonial trade and movement of people and objects from the Northeast to the Great Lakes and eventually onto the Plains.

A photo of the runtee in the NSHS collections.


A photo of the runtee in the NSHS collections.


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