Eastern Woodlands of North America

By Snow, Dean R. | Antiquity, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Eastern Woodlands of North America


Snow, Dean R., Antiquity


GLEN H. DORAN (ed.). Windover: multidisciplinary investigations of an Early Archaic Florida cemetery, xix+392 pages, 228 figures, 65 tables. 2002. Gainesville (FL): University Press of Florida; 0-8130-2510-9 hardback $75.

MAX E. WHITE. The archaeology and history of the Native Georgia tribes, x+150 pages, 60 figures. 2002. Gainesville (FL): University Press of Florida; 0-8130-2576-1 hardback $55.

DAVID G. MOORE. Catawba Valley Mississippian: ceramics, chronology, and Catawba Indians. xxi+359 pages, 71 figures, 62 tables. 2002. Tuscaloosa (AL): University of Alabama Press; 0-8173-1163-7 paperback $34.95.

ADAM KING. Etowah: the political history of a chiefdom capital, xi + 178 pages, 20 figures, 11 tables. 2003. Tuscaloosa (AL): University of Alabama Press; 0-8173-1223-4 hardback $55 & 0-8173-1224-2 paperback $29.95.

JOHN W. GRIFFIN (ed. Jerald T. Milanich & James J. Miller). Archaeology of the Everglades. xx+400 pages, 43 figures, 45 tables. 2002. Gainesville (FL): University Press of Florida; 0-8130-2558-3 hardback $55.

IAN W. BROWN (ed.) Bottle Creek: a Pensacola Culture site in south Alabama. xxxi+277 pages, 83 figures, 34 tables. 2003. Tuscaloosa (AL): University of Alabama Press; 0-8173-1219-6 hardback $65, 0-8173-1220-X paperback $37.50.

These six books are an excellent sampling of current archaeology in the Eastern Woodlands of the United States. This is a vast region that extends from the edge of the Great Plains to the Atlantic, and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Many archaeologists work this fertile ground, and they have found many ways to deliver their findings to each other, their students, and the public. The origins, format, intended audience, scope and other protocols all influenced the style and content of each of the volumes (see Table). Authors and editors alike were "all mindful of context, so even those efforts that began as site-specific research reports quickly transcended their boundaries. The result is a series of contributions that are much more than just pieces of a larger puzzle, for each of them also addresses the puzzle as a whole.

Environmental evolution and human adaptation during the Holocene proceeded through a series of 'Archaic' cultures. Native plant species were first exploited and later cultivated, making the Eastern Woodlands one of the world's independent hearths of plant domestication. The hard-won evidence for these findings has been found in archaeological sites that often lack clear stratification and have afforded poor preservation. Sites that hold well preserved evidence are rare and, properly excavated, they bring out the best in modern archaeological technique.

Early Archaic

The wet site at Windover, near Titusville, Florida, has provided science with a rare look at Early Archaic people, their physical characteristics and their diets. The site dates to 6000-5000 cal BC. At least 160 people were buried in a waterlogged deposit that preserved skeletons, brain tissue, wooden implements, textiles, spear throwers (atlatls), and other organic remains. Doran's team made the most of this extraordinary site.

The book's excellence is not just in its exhaustive attention to multidisciplinary detail, which is exemplary in itself, but in its inclusion of a wide range of relevant information that allows the reader access to many broader problems. For example, we are given not just the skeletal data from this particular wet site, but a complete inventory of North American skeletal samples having potential palaeodemographic utility predating 5000 radiocarbon years BE These and many other useful data are presented in accessible tabular form throughout the volume. Two of three appendices provide even more such data. This is a valuable model for other archaeologists, who I judge waste far too much ink, paper, and readers' time on dry narrative that would be more productively presented in tabular form. …

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