Culture Contact along
the I-69 Corridor
Protohistoric and Historic Use of the
Northern Yazoo Basin, Mississippi
Ian W. Brown
One might think that it would be relatively easy to discuss the Protohistoric (A.D. 1541–1673) and Historic aboriginal (A.D. 1674–1730) occupations of the northern Yazoo Basin. After all, this is the time when Europeans were on the scene, either indirectly or directly, so there should be ample written documentation available to chart the life and movements of the indigenous inhabitants. That indeed would be the case had the region continued to experience use on the same level as it had prior to 1541, but that did not happen. A massive depopulation occurred in the region in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries, probably brought about by the onset of disease (Ramenofsky 1987: 42–71). Consequently, we know less about life processes during these two centuries than for any other time in the culture chronology of northwest Mississippi. The irony of the matter is that this region experienced an intensity of occupation during the Late Mississippian period, so much so that the participants of the de Soto Entrada have left us with far more information about the lifeways of Mississippian people in the northern Yazoo Basin than elsewhere. This region should be a perfect arena for a study of culture contact, if only we could find sites that existed during this dynamic time.
Culture contact implies the coming together of two peoples of different autonomous cultural traditions (SSRC 1954: 974–975). It also suggests a degree of change and continuity as the less technologically inclined society attempts to maintain stability under the influences of newly introduced items and all the cultural baggage that comes with them. This is a topic that numerous people have wrestled with in adjacent regions to the south of the study area (Brain 1979, 1988; Brain et al. 1994; Brown 1979a, 1985; Neitzel 1965, 1983). The nature and effects of culture contact are difficult to deal with ethnographically, even