Ancient Vegetarians? Absorbed Pottery Residue Analysis of Diet in the Late Woodland and Emergent Mississippian Periods of the Mississippi Valley

By Reber, Eleanora A.; Evershed, Richard P. | Southeastern Archaeology, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Ancient Vegetarians? Absorbed Pottery Residue Analysis of Diet in the Late Woodland and Emergent Mississippian Periods of the Mississippi Valley


Reber, Eleanora A., Evershed, Richard P., Southeastern Archaeology


Absorbed pottery residue analysis of potsherds from Late Woodland and Emergent Mississippian sites in the Mississippi Valley detected a large number of residues originating primarily from non-maize plants. Such a low incidence of animal products in residues is unusual, particularly compared with results from similar studies in the Old World. Animal products appear to have been rare and valuable to people along the Mississippi Valley during the Late Woodland and Emergent Mississippian periods. Possible reasons for the rarity of meat during this period are discussed and compared with ethnographic accounts of diet during the contact period in the region.

Dietary reconstruction is one of the most useful tools in understanding ancient political and social structure. Bone stable isotope analysis, among other techniques, permits an understanding of the time frame and sociocultural changes surrounding the widespread adoption of maize in Midwestern North America (Kelly 1992; Rindos and Johannessen 1991; van der Merwe and Vogel 1978; Vogel and van der Merwe 1977; Voigt 1986). Bone stable isotope analysis permits dietary analysis of an individual human over his or her lifetime, while paleoethnobotanical and faunal remains analysis together allow the study of the overall diet of the members of a community. Now, absorbed pottery residue analysis allows the reconstruction of ancient cooking practices and diet over the lifetime of a pottery vessel. When used in concert, this toolbox of archaeometric techniques allows a more accurate reconstruction of ancient diet and pottery use than has hitherto been possible.

Previous papers have discussed the analysis of absorbed pottery residues from 134 Late Woodland (Reber 2000; Reber and Evershed 2004a), Emergent Mississippian, and Mississippian samples originating from four areas along the Mississippi River. The development of detection methods for maize-based compounds in absorbed pottery residues allowed the determination that unexpectedly small amounts of maize compounds were present in these residues. Possibly more interesting than this lack of maize compounds, however, was the wealth of compounds from non-maize plants found in these residues, and the unexpectedly small number of residues made up primarily of meat-based compounds.

The relative rarity of animal products in residues analyzed in this study appears to show that meat enjoyed a less prominent place in the diet of Late Woodland and Emergent Mississippian peoples along the Mississippi Valley than previously expected. The bulk of the Late Woodland/Emergent Mississippian diet, as reconstructed in this analysis, was made up of non-maize plants, including nuts, Eastern Horticultural Complex crops, and possibly gathered tubers. Meat and animal products may have been rare and valued.

Technical Background

In 2000-2001, absorbed pottery residue analysis was carried out on 134 Mississippi Valley pottery samples dating from the Middle Woodland to Mississippian periods. These samples originated in four regions of the Mississippi drainage:

1. The lower Mississippi Valley, where Dr. T. R. Kidder and the Louisiana Division of Archaeology submitted sherds from the Osceola site, the Reno Brake site, the Emerson site, the Bayou des Familles site, and the Morgan Mounds site.

2. The American Bottom region, where Dr. John Kelly, Dr. Timothy Pauketat, and Dr. Mary Beth Trubitt submitted samples from the Mees-Nochta site, Halliday site, and Cahokia Palisade project, respectively.

3. The Illinois Valley region, where the Center for American Archeology at Kampsville submitted a sequence of Middle-Late Woodland sherds from eight sites: Audrey North (Late Woodland), Koster East (Late Woodland), Evie (Late Woodland), Hill Creek (Mississippian), Apple Creek (Middle and Late Woodland), Walsh (Mississippian), and Starr Village (Late Woodland/Mississippian).

4. The Wisconsin River Valley, where Dr.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ancient Vegetarians? Absorbed Pottery Residue Analysis of Diet in the Late Woodland and Emergent Mississippian Periods of the Mississippi Valley
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.