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Title:Big Men in the Big Black Valley: Small Scale Late Prehistoric Community Organization in Central Mississippi
Author(s):Lorenz, Karl Gregory
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Riley, Thomas J.
Department / Program:Anthropology
Discipline:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Anthropology, Archaeology
Abstract:This study makes use of archaeological data from settlement survey and test excavations at five site locations in the Big Black River valley of central Mississippi. These data are used to reconstruct the settlement pattern and assess the functional role of sites within a late prehistoric period, small-scale Mississippian culture that inhabited the valley from A.D. 1200-1500. The settlement system was characterized by the Old Hoover platform mound (22Ho502) and its outlying non-mound support population of homesteads, referred to as a two-tiered hierarchical settlement system.
A 12% stratified random sample survey was conducted within a five kilometer radius of the Old Hoover mound; a sparse population represented by sixteen non-mound Mississippi period sites was located within this sample. Correlations with settlement location and fertile soil areas were very weak, whereas the relationship with physiographic zone was strong. Based on Mississippi period site density estimates, a sparse population of 200-300 people inhabited the study area contemporaneously from A.D. 1200-1500.
Analysis of excavation results from the Old Hoover platform mound, its associated hamlet area, two homesteads, and a temporary lithic chipping station revealed archaeological assemblage patterns characterized by very little social status differentiation. Examination of the lithic, ceramic, botanical, and faunal assemblages recovered from the mound discloses communal feasting activities associated with a large specialized structure, corresponding to ethnohistoric descriptions of southeastern temples. Maize remains were quite sparse throughout the settlement system, nonetheless 80% of maize was recovered from the mound and its associated hamlet, suggesting its consumption during large gatherings.
Conclusions suggest that archaeological patterns recovered from the Old Hoover settlement system reflect an organization consisting of a local tribal group led by a person with limited political authority akin to the model presented of the Melanesian "Big Man". This study expands our knowledge of the existence and operation of this poorly known kind of late prehistoric southeastern society. Furthermore, in the comparative study of two and three-tiered settlement systems, the key variables found to influence political growth were population size and density, and dietary dependence on maize.
Issue Date:1992
Type:Text
Description:410 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1992.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/72388
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9305606
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1992


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