Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth B. Garland

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Jack Smith

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Archaeologists have routinely identified small lead seals found on sixteenth- to eighteenth-century sites in North America as "bale seals." An analysis of the lead seals from Fort Michilimackinac, Mackinaw City, Michigan, (1715-1781) was conducted to determine whether the seals are actually cloth seals from individual textiles.

Four lines of evidence were examined in order to clarify the function(s) of lead seals: documentary sources, quantitative analysis of archaeological data from Fort Michilimackinac, comparative data from site reports, and cloth imprint analysis.

Available evidence supports an interpretation that most lead seals are cloth marks. Lead seals served as indicators of quality, ownership, and taxation of cloth. Documentary sources mention the existence of lead bale seals, and a small number of seals from Fort Michilimackinac may have served to seal or identify the contents of bales of trade goods.