The Eastern Archaic, Historicized

By Thompson, Victor D. | Southeastern Archaeology, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

The Eastern Archaic, Historicized


Thompson, Victor D., Southeastern Archaeology


The Eastern Archaic, Historicized. KENNETH E. SASSAMAN. Altamira Press, Lanham, 2010. xx + 274 pp. $70.00 (cloth), ISBN-13 978-0-7591-0679-6.

Reviewed by Victor D. Thompson

Gross explanations of process are often, usually by necessity, an oversimplification of what is really going on behind the scenes or beneath the surface. While helpful in the abstract, such explanations can fail to account for the ultimate inner workings of a given phenomenon. This is not to say that such explanations are inherently wrong or are not applicable, but that in explaining process, all the deft events and actions that bring such things into being are masked. Sometimes, when such obscured attributes are unmasked, they are revealed. to be the primary drivers of change and action. In his book The Eastern Archaic, Historicized, Kenneth Sassaman attempts to unmask and reveal the inner workings of Archaic peoples, much of which, he argues, is obscured by normative thinking regarding the archaeology of this time frame.

At the core of Sassaman's argument is the belief that there is more cultural diversity within the founding populations of North America than is currently recognized by archaeologists. Following from this is an undervaluing of the role that "intercultural encounters" had in "shaping the direction and pace of Archaic culture change" (p. xvii). In order to take this perspective, Sassaman must assume that the histories of Archaic peoples were filled with repeated and various lifealtering events, such as migration, abandonments, and demographic change, among others (p. xviii). Thus, for Sassaman, there is no one Archaic world but, rather like Braudel, there are many Archaic worlds that are in constant flux in terms of making and remaking.

Is there justification for assuming the multiculturalism among Archaic peoples and such concomitant processes of ethnogenesis and the like that Sassaman posits? My feeling is that such a premise should be widely accepted among most Archaic researchers. Certainly, Sassaman has, in numerous book chapters, and now in the Eastern Archaic, fleshed out his thoughts on how we should conceptualize such phenomena. And as he points out, the "evolutionary validity" of ethnographic hunter-gatherers as pristine isolates is now patently false (p. 11). The question is, why do we not see more written about such issues? Indeed, these topics pervade the archaeology of Puebloan societies of the American Southwest and are beginning to be more common among Mississippian period scholars. The answer to this, as indicated by Sassaman, owes to the theoretical dominance of environmental and evolutionary thinking in Archaic research.

Sassaman's response to this lack of appreciation for the cultural diversity of Archaic societies is that we must historicize our archaeology. What he means by this is that we must consider and focus on history as an "ongoing process of making culture through social interactions" (p. 5). This is not to say that environmental issues and drivers such as climate change are not important to understanding both general and specific patterns during the Archaic (p. 192). However, for Sassaman, the environment is just one of many factors and not an end explanation of culture change (p. 192), a sentiment that most subscribers to environmental archaeology would agree with in practice and principle.

After laying out his theoretical outline, Sassaman goes on to put his ideas into practice. Early in the volume, he engages in an exercise in heuristic modeling of Archaic ancestries. I think that some will question the validity and usefulness of this model (Figure 2.2.). In fact, Sassaman admits that while certain aspects of his model are testable, it is unlikely that archaeologists will be able to trace any one specific ancestry line proposed in the model (p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Eastern Archaic, Historicized
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.