Book Reviews -- Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley by Stephen R. Potter

By Sprinkle, John H., Jr. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, April 1995 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley by Stephen R. Potter


Sprinkle, John H., Jr., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley. By STEPHEN R. POTTER. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993. xii, 267 pp. $29.95.

STEPHEN R. POTTER'S Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley joins an impressive list of recent works focusing on Virginia's Native Americans during the period immediately before and after the invasion of the Chesapeake region in 1607. Potter's study enlarges our understanding of the multifaceted nature of native cultures in the commonwealth and how the prehistoric development of these groups influenced the history of the Anglo-Indian interaction during the seventeenth century in Virginia.

Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs presents a detailed archaeological study of the Chicacoans, a group of Algonquians along Virginia's Northern Neck, from about A.D. 200 until the 1650s. In addition, the book places the Chicacoans within a wider context of cultural, social, and political developments in the Chesapeake region during the centuries before the European invasion. After outlining the characteristics of native cultures in the pre-contact Potomac River Valley, Potter presents an intriguing discussion of the rise of complex societies, such as the Powhatan Chiefdom, in the region. His last chapter and epilogue detail the complex interaction of native and European cultures in the early seventeenth century through a comparison of archaeological and written sources. Throughout this work Potter's primary sources include the information recovered from a large number of archaeological sites dating from the late prehistoric and early historic periods. In addition, Potter makes efficient use of the ethnohistorical and anthropological literature, as well as the available documentary record of early Virginia.

One of the principal accomplishments of Potter's study is his synthesis of the known archaeological record for the Northern Neck area and the Chesapeake region.

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