Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Extended Entranceway Structures in the Caddo Archaeological Area

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Extended Entranceway Structures in the Caddo Archaeological Area

Article excerpt

The construction and use of extended entranceway structures from the western Ozark Highlands to east Texas illustrates the existence of a shared tradition of specialized buildings among Caddo peoples. Even within this one shared architectural tradition there are three geographically distinct patterns in the shape of the specialized buildings and the orientation of their extended entranceways. These geographic differences may reflect the existence of diverse Caddo beliefs on mortuary rituals and cosmological symbolism as well as site-specific decisions on the place of specialized buildings within living communities.


The study of the architectural character of structures built by late prehistoric and early historic Native American societies in the southeastern United States has been a particular archaeological focus in recent years (see Brown 2007; Gougeon 2006; Hally 2008; Knight 2007; Lacquement 2007; Lewis et al. 1998; Rodning 2007). That focus is commonly directed to a better appreciation of the social meaning of domestic structures within communities as well as the place of architecture of public buildings "conceived and planned by community leaders" (Hally 2008:121) as "a representation of temporal order" (Beck 2007:20) in the social and political realm. The analysis of architectural structures continues to provide important insights into aboriginal views of the cosmos, social practice, and change during Mississippian period times (Livingood 2008:3, 7-8).

A point raised by Vernon J. Knight Jr. (2007:186-187) has particular resonance in what is to follow in this article on a specific shared architectural tradition among the Caddo peoples living in the far Southeast after ca. A.D. 900. In a review of past findings from architectural studies in the Eastern Woodlands, Knight (2007:187) urged that "broad-scale comparative studies of material culture of the kind that might reveal the geography of housing traditions" be done, given the likelihood "that sharedness of formal design of domestic housing across geographic space would be a common index of the relatedness and interaction of peoples, in the same manner that pottery is often used" (Knight 2007:186). As will be seen, the geography of one specific housing tradition among Caddo groupsthe extended entranceway structure-and the values and practices that underlay their construction, use, orientation, and placement across a considerable span of prehistory and space apparently reflects the existence of a diverse set of Caddo beliefs on mortuary rituals and cosmological symbolism that were linked to the directions of life and death. A number of extended entrance structures on or under mounds were oriented to face to the south or west, the direction of death, but most of the extended entranceway structures in northern, central, and southern Caddo area mound centers were constructed with life-guiding cosmological principles in mind. Site-specific decisions on the place of specialized buildings within living communities of Caddo peoples tended to result in the construction of these buildings that faced the social community, the village, the plaza, and other important ritual places in the Caddo constructed social landscape.

Southern and Northern Caddo Archaeological Areas

Extended entranceway structures are a conspicuous and widely distributed architectural construction on Caddo sites in both the southern and northern Caddo archaeological areas (Figure 1). It has been common practice by archaeologists since at least the 1940s (e.g., Krieger 1947:199) to refer to the archaeology of this broad area as "Caddoan" or as the "Caddoan area," even as it was recognized that these terms are problematic, primarily due to the reluctance to link a linguistic label (i.e., "Caddoan") with the archaeological record of indigenous peoples that lived in a specific geographic area in adjacent parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. In this article, I prefer to employ the term "Caddo" to refer to the peoples that lived in the area in question, rather than the hackneyed "Caddoan" term, and "Caddo" also refers to the archaeological sites and material remains they left behind. …

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