Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Radiocarbon Trends and the East Texas Caddo Tradition (Ca. A.D. 800-1680)

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Radiocarbon Trends and the East Texas Caddo Tradition (Ca. A.D. 800-1680)

Article excerpt

The Southern Caddo Area stretches across East Texas, northwest Louisiana, southwest Arkansas, and southeast Oklahoma (Figure 1). While delineating the geographic extent of ancestral Caddo settlements across this broad area has been of considerable research interest since the early 1900s (see Brown et al. 1978; Early 1982, 2004; Girard 2010; Krieger 1946, 2009; Rogers and Sabo 2004; Schambach 1982; Story 1990), this article focuses on the temporal and spatial variability in Caddo native history that occurred in East Texas. Using radiocarbon (14C) dates as data (e.g., Rick 1987), we combine 14C assays from all sites with 10 or more dates in order to construct a temporal and spatial model of ancestral Caddo occupation by natural region and river basin. This effort represents the first phase of a larger research approach to focus on better understanding long-term trends in interaction between Caddo and non-Caddo cultural groups between ca. A.D. 850 and 1680 (Formative to Late Caddo periods).

To this end, it is important to identify those sites with occupational episodes (of a particular district/region/ phase) that are archaeologically contemporary. Here we use detailed analyses of radiocarbon dates from East Texas Caddo sites to address the issue.

Problems with chronology and cultural taxonomies persist in East Texas Caddo studies (Perttula 2012), but with the availability of the extensive East Texas Radiocarbon Database (Perttula and Seiden 2011) there is hope that these problems will be replaced with new ideas regarding nonchronological issues in the archaeological record: technology, traditions, politics, religion, and rituals of the East Texas Caddo people. It is important to dig deeper into the cultural nuances and traditions of the Caddo people to investigate how human interaction influenced the creation of this socially powerful group of complex mound-building societies at the western edge of the Eastern Woodlands. Representative of the first step in furthering current dialogues, this article explores various avenues through which large data sets-such as the one employed herein-from the Caddo region can be used gainfully to address more pointed and focused research questions.

To us, the logical first step in addressing the temporal and spatial character of the East Texas Caddo tradition is through an analysis of the 14C data. Although "deceptively simple" (Perttula 2012:12), the current chronology of the Caddo tradition (Table 1) embraces "no unstated assumption ...that [these] periods represent linear or evolutionary views of regional developments or that archaeological developments within the East Texas Caddo area conform in any way from one region to another within the overall regional framework" (Perttula 1992:58).


Radiocarbon dates have been gathered from the East Texas Radiocarbon Database (ETRD) (Perttula and Seiden 2011), which is an amalgam of 14C dates collected from research and cultural resource management reports and publications spanning the last 50 or more years, synthesized, then recalibrated in version 4.1.7 of OxCal (Bronk Ramsey 2012) using IntCal09 (Reimer et al. 2009). These data were analyzed using a variety of statistical processes within version 2.15.1 of R (, and summed probability distributions (SPD) were produced using OxCal. For older assays lacking 513C data, we used estimates for fractionation correction as suggested by Stuiver and Reimer (1993:Table 1): -25%o for nutshells and charcoal (C^sub 3^ plants) and -10%o for charred maize (C^sub 4^ plants) (Perttula 1998a, 1998b; Perttula and Seiden 2011; Seiden 2012). Once recalibrated, median ages were utilized to select the bulk of the Caddo sample, while others- those straddling the A.D. 800 or A.D. 1680 temporal boundaries-were selected on a case-by-case basis and were segregated based upon probability. Statistical calculations employ negative numbers to represent B.C. and positive numbers to represent A. …

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