Time's River: Archaeological Syntheses from the Lower Mississippi River Valley

By Janet Rafferty; Evan Peacock | Go to book overview

5
Paleoenvironmental Modeling
in the Central and Lower
Mississippi River Valley
Past and Future Approaches

Evan Peacock

There can be no doubt that paleoclimatic reconstruction is a developing
science and very much in its infancy with regard to the Lower Mississippi
Valley.

Saucier 1994:42


Introduction

At first glance, the wide expanses of bottomland making up the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMV) might seem to present a picture of homogenous environmental conditions. This perception is strengthened by synthetic environmental works in which the LMV is characterized as “southern floodplain forest” or some other broad term (e.g., Küchler 1964). While the general picture of a hardwood-dominated forest with relatively few major tree associations (H. Delcourt et al. 1981; P. Delcourt et al. 1999; Holloway and Valastro 1983a; Kidder 2002:67; Morse and Morse 1983:Table 1.1; Thorne and Curry 1983) is correct at one scale, that scale is of limited value in archaeological investigations (cf. McNutt 1996; Schuldenrein 1996:10–11). At finer scales, the daunting environmental complexity of the LMV is revealed (Lafferty 1998:139; O'Brien and Dunnell 1998:10; Saucier 1981, 1994). The area has been continually shaped by processes related to a variety of geologic, climatic, and structural controls. These processes are time-and space-transgressive, meaning that environmental changes took place at different times in different places (Table 5.1). For example, rising sea levels in the Early Holocene contributed to the establishment of a meandering river regime in the LMV, but it took about six thousand years of this transgressive process for a fully developed meandering regime to reach the latitude of Memphis, Tennessee (Saucier 1994). The effects of some

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