Archaeology of the Mid-Holocene Southeast

Archaeology of the Mid-Holocene Southeast

Archaeology of the Mid-Holocene Southeast

Archaeology of the Mid-Holocene Southeast


This volume summarizes the archaeological findings of natives who inhabited the American Southeast from 8000 to 3000 years ago. The book examines evidence of many of the cultural expressions observed by European explorers, including plant domestication, mound building, social ranking and warfare.


As this volume amply demonstrates, our knowledge of the precolumbian Native American cultures of the southeastern United States has undergone immense growth in the last few decades. New generations of scholars armed with data derived from recent interdisciplinary archaeological investigations are literally rewriting the past, providing much fuller accounts and explanations of human cultures and their adaptations to their natural and social environments.

Several decades ago when I took my first college undergraduate course in southeastern archaeology, the cultures of the Archaic period, the mid-Holocene from 8000 to 3000 B.P., were presented as egalitarian hunter-gathering bands living in relative isolation from one another. Over time as modern forests came to dominate the landscape, Archaic bands developed a ground tool technology that allowed them to make extensive use of forest products, especially nuts; they also gathered and ate huge quantities of freshwater shellfish that had begun to flourish in many of the southeastern rivers. Archaic groups did not live in large villages, did not inhabit the coasts, and did not build or use mounds. The only exception to the last was the Poverty Point culture of the Lower Mississippi Valley, an anomaly no one could successfully explain except by saying it was different from what was known about other Archaic cultures.

In that course, five thousand years of history were compressed into one textbook chapter and a week's lectures. No small wonder that I and other archaeologists opted to spend our careers investigating the seemingly more interesting cultures that preceded or developed out of those of the mid-Holocene.

But all that has changed. With this important volume, Kenneth Sassaman and David Anderson and their colleagues serve notice that old characterizations of the cultures of the Archaic period have been buried under the back dirt of new excavations and new interpretations. A host of specialists utilizing data from paleoenvironmental studies, biological anthropology, archaeobiology, and archaeology offer exciting, fresh perspectives on the Southeast and the cultures that lived there during the mid-Holocene epoch.

Topical and regional syntheses recount the geological and vegetative histories of the mid-Holocene. Against that backdrop of changing and regional natural settings, the volume's contributors examine Archaic economic patterns, social organization, technology, group interactions, health, and regional and temporal variations in architecture and settlement systems. We learn that Archaic cultures inhabited large expanses of the southeast coast and some built mounds for . . .

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