Archaeology of the Middle Green River Region, Kentucky

Article excerpt

Archaeology of the Middle Green River Region, Kentucky. WILLIAM H. MARQUARDT and PATTY JO WATSON (eds.). Institute of Archaeology and Paleoenvironmental Studies, Monograph Number 5, Rorida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, 2005. xxii + 657 pp., editors' preface, 242 figures, 172 tables, index. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 1-881448-14-2.

Reviewed by Tanya M. Peres

When I received the review copy of Archaeology of the Middle Green River Region, Kentucky, I quickly realized that I would not be taking it to Europe with me as reading material for the plane flight, as originally planned. For those that have not seen this monograph, it is an impressive 5 cm thick (half the standard excavation level!) and packed full of the history of archaeology in the Southeast as it relates to the Middle Green River Region; history of the interdisciplinary project that this book results from; generous amounts of archaeological, biological, and paleoenvironmental data; interpretations; synthesis; and recommendations for future research.

The 24 chapters, 172 tables, and 242 figures in this volume are organized into three parts. Part 1 is an overview of the Shell Mound Archaeological Project (SMAP); part 2 focuses on the fieldwork and laboratory analysis of excavated remains from the Carlston Annis site, the eventual primary focus of SMAP; part 3 is the concluding chapter synthesizing the data presented in the preceding 23 chapters. Whether intentional or not, Marquardt and Watson have organized this volume to give primacy to the biological and environmental evidence that is often given second-class status in archaeology reports. The nature of the Green River Shell Mound Archaic sites is such that these types of data are paramount in successfully interpreting the history of occupation and use by people in this region. Materialists and fans of chert, lithics, and modified bone implements need not worry; these are the focus of chapters 17-19. There are no appendices, a statement to the equal importance of all data classes.

Part 1 includes chapters 1 to 5, which focus on the regional setting of the SMAP, the history of archaeology in the area, and a chronology of research conducted as part of SMAP. In chapter 1, Watson and Marquardt recount not only the current and past environmental and economic settings of the region, but also synthesize oral history and conversations held with local families that lived and worked in the area for generations. This gives the reader a sense of temporal depth of the region, while becoming an important part of the ethnohistoric record. Additionally, the inclusion of oral histories in an archaeology book on the archaic culture period speaks to the importance of keeping detailed and thoughtful field notes; one can never predict what may or may not be of importance to subsequent analyses and interpretations. Chapter 2, also by Watson and Marquardt, provides a detailed timeline of the interdisciplinary research conducted as part SMAP. Chapter 3, written by geoarchaeologist Julie K. Stein, describes the modern and historic Green River through geological and pedological information. Stein's work on this topic is vital to understanding environmental processes that allowed the archaic peoples to flourish in this region. Marquardt and Watson provide a summary of the regional investigations as a principle component of SMAP in chapter 4. J. Alan May's chapter 5 is the last in this section, and it includes a proposed model for shell midden formation based on a synthesis of ethnographies from 20 shellcollecting societies.

Part 2 focuses on the Carlston Annis site (15BT5), the site that became the research center of SMAP. Marquardt and Watson open the section with a chapter (6) detailing the investigations at Carlston Annis, beginning with a summary of WPA excavations at the site, followed by SMAP's preliminary Investigations and excavations of the site from 1972 to 1980. The chapter concludes with interpretations and a summary of site formation, use, and chronology. …