The Ascent of Chiefs: Cahokia and Mississippian Politics in Native North America

By Timothy R. Pauketat | Go to book overview

Preface

Archaeological and ethnohistorical research in Southeastern North America is providing fresh insights into questions posed by social scientists about power, culture, inequality, ethnogenesis, and stratification. This study is intended to broach some of these same questions by focusing on the premier Mississippian polity in the Southeast. The theoretical direction of this study, while paralleling certain contemporary trends in American Anthropology, represents a break with previous archaeological efforts in the Southeast. As a result, I neither seek nor expect to satisfy all Mississippianists. However, I do hope to open new avenues of inquiry and to promote productive discussion about late-prehistoric North America.

These scholarly aspirations cannot be separated from my practical archaeological experiences in parts of the Mississippi Valley where modern urban expansion and agricultural land modification continue to obliterate much of the past. My experiences have defined to a large extent my own archaeological philosophy and methodology. The very data sets upon which this volume is based were salvaged prior to the building of a planned highway that was to bisect the Cahokia site. Until 1988 the boxes of sherds, lithic refuse, scattered bones, and charcoal from these excavations sat on shelves at the Illinois State Museum and the University of Illinois. John Kelly suggested to me that these data could provide the kind of diachronic information that I was then seeking relative to questions about Native American political centralization. I think he was correct.

My thoughts and ideas about Mississippian chiefdoms, prestate politics, and culture history have benefitted greatly from interaction with Richard Ford, John O'Shea, and Henry Wright at the University of Michigan and with other prominent Eastern Woodlands specialists like David Anderson, Alex Barker, Charles Cobb, Thomas Emerson, Gayle Fritz, James Griffin, John Kelly, V. James Knight, George Milner, Dan Morse, Jon Muller, Bruce Smith, and Paul Welch. The Illinois State Museum provided the lab space necessary for much of the artifact analysis, and for their courteous assistance I thank Terrance Martin and Michael Wiant. Like

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