Fording the River
Janet Rafferty and Evan Peacock
Mississippi Valley archeology cannot exist half slave and half free, the upper
half hog-tied but happy in their typological fetters, the lower half progress-
ing step by step in determining the time relations of cultural manifestations
in one area after another.
Letter from Henry B. Collins to James A. Ford,
April 11, 1941. (From Baca, 2002: 154).
The authors in this book represent a considerable diversity of archaeological theories and a great degree of expertise in specialty areas. Despite these differences in theory and substantive approaches, there is general agreement on a number of points. This summary looks in a broad way at some commonalities among the chapters and, from them, draws conclusions about some ways forward. Much more detail is presented in each chapter, especially concerning the state of current knowledge. We urge readers to refer to the individual chapters for the specifics in each case.
Recovery methods are a constant concern. Even though archaeologists might appear to agree on a number of standard field methods and their rationales, much of this accord may be sacrificed for the sake of expediency. One such precept is that every archaeological project should recover artifacts at all scales. Failures in this area have especially adverse effects on environmental, floral, and faunal data at one end of the scale and on settlement pattern data at the other. The theoretical and preservation-based arguments in support of this rule sometimes have been neglected. For example, screening excavated dirt through 1-inch mesh is often chosen for practical reasons, such as clay-heavy soil or the short-term nature of the project. Without taking dirt samples from each provenience, fine-mesh and flotation recovery become impossible. Fish bones (Jackson), charred seeds (Fritz), and land snails (Peacock) are three