Archaeology in the Lower
Robert C. Dunnell
There is ample evidence that the way we view ourselves and our past exerts a significant, sometimes profound, influence on the practice of archaeology. History does matter; it does have lessons for the present.
After a long period of neglect, the Lower Mississippi Valley (LMV), and the Southeast generally, have been blessed with a number of excellent histories of archaeological endeavors (e.g., Hoffman 1999; Johnson, ed. 1993; Johnson 2002; Lyon 1996; Rolingson 1999, 2001; Rolingson, ed. 2001; Tushingham et al. 2002) in recent years. Further, the University of Alabama Press series of Southeastern Classics, edited by Stephen Williams, has made many of the scarce original sources available to a broad audience, promising to stimulate additional interest in historical research. O'Brien and Lyman (ed. 2001) have also reprinted key documents. The seemingly obligatory section on “history of research” or “archaeological background” seen in modern cultural resources management (CRM) reports appears to have led to a competition that ferrets out new historical details with regularity. As a result, I wondered how one might make a contribution in such a densely populated, well-researched field in a brief essay.
Most of the history of archaeology has been written within the same paradigm as current among archaeologists for constructing prehistory. Thus the dominant mode employed in structuring the history of archaeology has been culture-historical— a set of periods are devised, a characteristic approach for each period identified, and exemplars recited in support of the characterization (e.g., Daniel 1975, 1981; Willey and Sabloff 1970, 1980, 1993). Other tacks have been taken occasionally (e.g., Brown 1994; O'Brien 1996a; Trigger 1989), but none of this history was organized in a manner relevant to the conservation and management of the archaeological record, the central theme of this volume.
To realize the promise of archaeological history for present practice, one not