Time's River: Archaeological Syntheses from the Lower Mississippi River Valley

By Janet Rafferty; Evan Peacock | Go to book overview

7
Prehistoric Settlement in the
Lower Mississippi Valley
A Critical Review

Carl P. Lipo and Robert C. Dunnell


Introduction

Although explicit and systematic analyses of the spatial aspects of the archaeological record were added rather late in the discipline's history, regional differences in the content, architecture, and occurrence of archaeological phenomena were recognized almost as soon as American archaeologists became aware of the interior of the continent (e.g., Atwater 1820). By the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, there were numerous regional accounts (e.g., Brown 1992 [1926]; Bushnell 1919; Jones 1999 [1873]; Lapham 1855; Moore 1910; Thruston 1890) where the spatial element was supplied primarily by modern political boundaries or physiographic factors. William Henry Holmes (Meltzer and Dunnell 1992 [Holmes 1903]) developed the first archaeologically defined spatial units (cf. Holmes 1886a, 1886b) that had lasting impact. By mid-century (Griffin 1952; Martin et al. 1947; Willey and Phillips 2001[1958]) archaeologically (sometimes construed as ethnically) driven spatial units were de rigueur, even if modern political and geographic criteria still had surreptitious influence (e.g., Chapman and Chapman 1972; Willey 1949). Thus, by the mid-twentieth century, archaeological use of space was largely confined to providing the horizontal axes in the ubiquitous time-space charts of the culture historians.

Two events were of particular importance to the development of analytic approaches to archaeological space from earlier approaches. The first was the recognition that archaeological assemblages have emergent properties beyond the scale of the artifact; i.e., they have properties greater than the sum of their parts, including how things are arranged and related. Although there were precedents (e.g., Smith 1910), the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects of the late 1930s and early 1940s provided the first major step toward the analysis of spatial variability (Fagette 1996; Lyon 1996). The Mississippi River

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