America's Early Social Media

By Lulewicz, Jacob | Natural History, April 2019 | Go to article overview

America's Early Social Media


Lulewicz, Jacob, Natural History


Just as we have our networks of "friends" and "followers" on such platforms as Facebook and Twitter, societies that existed in North America between 1,200 and 350 years ago had their own information-sharing networks. In the February 18 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, I published a study that used social network analysis to map social and political connections that helped unite friends and families across dozens of southern Appalachian villages, well before the arrival of European colonists. The findings are based on a messaging archive that is preserved not in bytes but in bits of pottery unearthed through archaeological digs at hundreds of Mississippian culture sites scattered across southern Appalachia. Focusing on subtle evolving changes in the technologies used to temper and strengthen pottery and the cultural symbols used to decorate them, the study provides a detailed chronological map of how new pottery techniques signified connections between these communities.

Between 1539 and 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his expedition became the first Europeans to traverse the interior of what is today the United States, specifically the southeastern states including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. In 1540, on the western slopes of the southern Appalachian Mountains, de Soto encountered a political landscape defined by dozens of autonomous communities bound together through a regional political system. This system was characterized by powerful chiefs and was integrated through the rule of a paramount chief at the town of Coosa, located in what is today northern Georgia. We know today that these communities were part of a Mississippian culture that expanded across most of the midwestern and southeastern United States reaching back upwards of 600 years before the arrival of de Soto's expedition.

Mississippian traditions began to emerge sometime around 900 ce in the Lower Mississippi Valley and American Bottom region stretching from west-central Illinois down through northern Louisiana and Mississippi. From these cultural heartlands, traditions including new religious practices, political economies dominated by maize agriculture, the institutionalization of socioeconomic inequalities, and the centralization of social and political leadership spread quickly across the southeastern United States. The best known Mississippian community, located in the American Bottom region just across the Mississippi River from what is today St. Louis, is Cahokia. Cahokia was the largest community north of Mexico and, as some argue, the only city that developed before the arrival of Europeans in what is today the United States. Indeed, Cahokia was the largest city in the history of the United States until Philadelphia overtook it in the late eighteenth century. In fact, at its height, between 1050 and 1200 ce, the population at Cahokia was larger than London's throughout the same period.

While de Soto's expedition passed through long after the abandonment of Cahokia, the ethnohistoric documentation of his encounters with indigenous communities, as well as the accounts from succeeding Spanish expeditions through the region, have long been held as a model for understanding Mississippian social and political organization. Archaeologists have employed these accounts to interpret archaeological findings and shed light on Mississippian socio-politics, including societies that were ancestral to those encountered by European explorers. Traditionally, the archaeology of these political systems has been studied primarily from the top down: interpretations have been based on evidence that either fits or does not fit a model that has been developed from European accounts. This approach has focused primarily on the activities, behavior, and histories of the elite echelons of Mississippian society and has been concerned mostly with top-down decision-making and political strategies. …

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
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 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 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.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

America's Early Social Media
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
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
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.”

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 8, MLA 7, 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." (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.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    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.