Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Social Integration at a Frontier and the Creation of Mississippian Social Identity in Southwestern Virginia

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Social Integration at a Frontier and the Creation of Mississippian Social Identity in Southwestern Virginia

Article excerpt

The formation of Mississippian identity has been examined multiple times across the Southeast (e.g., Alt 2002, 2006; Blitz and Lorenz 2006; Emerson 1997; Pauketat and Alt 2003; Pollack et al. 2002; Smith 1990). On the one hand, Mississippian archaeologists examine the evidence for indicators of what made Mississippian identity. On the other hand, we [including myself (e.g., Meyers 2015)] acknowledge the variability in Mississippian groups. Mississippian groups located at frontier areas are of particular interest to the study of Mississippian identity because different groups come together at frontiers and new identities can be formed. This process of forming a new identity includes contact, exchange of ideas, and integration of social practices. Through the integration of social practices new identities can emerge. To be successful, integration has to happen at both the secular level and the ritual level. These can be and often are combined. Archaeologically, we can identify secular levels of integration in domestic refuse, and ritual levels of integration in non-domestic refuse such as might be produced by feasting. Craft production is an activity that occurs in both contexts. It often occurs within households, and yet the products of craft production can be used and controlled at the suprahousehold level and in non-domestic contexts. At the same time the production of multiple goods for domestic and non-domestic uses, that is, for secular and ritualistic integrative functions, can happen simultaneously and be an indicator of changing social identity.

In this paper I examine the production of utilitarian (ceramic) and non-utilitarian (shell bead) craft production at a Mississippian frontier to understand the processes of establishing a frontier, attracting labor to that frontier, and successfully integrating that labor. It is through the process of social integration that two types of social identity were created. One was a new communal identity of previously disparate groups. The second was an identity created through this formation of communal social identity in which some members of the group benefited from the labor of other members. Through both types of social identity new social forms are created and old social forms are reproduced.

Carter Robinson site

The Carter Robinson site (44LE10) was a frontier of the Mississippian world located in southern Appalachia (Figure 1; Meyers 2002) that likely originated in the Norris Basin region of east Tennessee (Meyers 2006, 2011). This mound and village site was occupied for approximately 150 years beginning in A.D. 1250 (Meyers 2011, 2014, 2015), probably as part of a larger northeastward expansion at this time. Excavations at Carter Robinson began in 2006; since then, four field seasons, conducted in 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2015, have been completed. Through a combination of geophysical testing, shovel testing, and large block excavations, a total of six structures were identified; at least a dozen more may be located at the site based on geophysical survey (Wesson and Lennen 2013). Three structures were located near the mound, a fourth structure was located 80 m east of the mound, a fifth structure was located on the mound's southern edge, and a sixth structure, uncovered in 2015, was located 90 m south of the mound (Figure 2). This paper discusses data gathered from the 2006 to 2008 excavations. Data recovery from the 2013 excavations focused on an area north of Structure 1 and these results are still being analyzed; however, preliminary results are similar to data uncovered during earlier excavations. The 2015 excavations focused solely on the structural remains located south of the mound, which are tangential to the data discussed here.

Border or frontier areas are identified archaeologically in part by the presence of at least two distinctly different types of material culture (Parker 2006). In this border area, the Radford phase (A.D. 800-1700) was present. …

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