Through the Lens of
the Lithic Analyst
The Organization of Mississippi Delta
Philip J. Carr
Lithic analysis will never replace baseball as a spectator sport, but in the
last couple of decades it has become a lot more fun than it used to be. What
has made it fun is that its practitioners have achieved sound procedures for
analysis and have added substantially to knowledge about the past; the re-
search is rewarding.
Collins 1993: 92
When thinking of the Mississippi Delta, the blues, catfish, and barbecue come to mind, and if you are an archaeologist, then mounds and pottery are probably on the list too, but not lithics. While there are reasons for this, both archaeological and historical, lithics nevertheless have played a role in our understanding of the prehistory of the Delta, especially for certain time periods and for particular types of prehistoric activities. Arguably, the limited availability of materials suitable for chipped-stone tool manufacture makes the Delta an interesting environmental situation from the perspective of a lithic analyst. Prehistoric populations used chipped-stone tools, but often lacked ready access to raw materials. This undoubtedly had a profound effect on how these peoples organized their technology to meet their social and economic needs. Therefore, Mississippi Delta lithics have great potential to provide significant information about the past and can serve as a critical line of evidence when developing and testing hypotheses concerning prehistoric behavior.
For the past fifteen years I have worked to develop methods to increase the information we can obtain from chipped-stone assemblages. Here, I will discuss theoretical and methodological approaches that could prove fruitful for investigating the prehistoric lithic assemblages of the Mississippi Delta. These approaches will be highlighted with examples using archaeological lithic assemblages from the Yazoo Basin, which is that portion of the Delta of par