- Reviewed by
Archaeological Perspectives on the Southern Appalachians: A Multiscalar Approach is a well-written and well-organized edited volume composed of archaeological case studies from Late Woodland to Mississippian period sites across a broad region encompassing southern Virginia to Georgia and Alabama. The [End Page 84] volume is written for regional practitioners, and is intended to fête David Hally, a long-term archaeologist in the region. However, though the book is not an overview the region, the text, or at least specific cases of interest, can be profitably read by nonregional specialists in archaeology.
The “multiscalar approach” of the subtitle is more of a methodologically pragmatic entrée into the study of the complex, many-layered reality of social life rather than a theoretical underpinning for the volume (xxv). The contributors of this volume present solid archaeological case studies that focus on one type of data, be it artifact, household, site, or region, and utilize comparison and scale as part of their analyses. The volume as a whole is moreover structured in such a way as to invoke increasing scale of analysis, with early chapters on ceramics giving way to later chapters on site organization, regional settlement patterning, and political structure.
Many of these cases are extensions of their respective author’s previous work, yet they are all also built on careful decades of intensive regional research, and the more significant organizing theme of the volume is the debt that research in this region owes Dr. David Hally. The book is in reality a Festschrift for Hally; the editors indicate the volume began as a celebratory symposium at the 2010 Southeastern Archaeological Conference and every chapter cites Hally’s work. The preface overviews Hally’s career and concludes with a chart of all of his PhD, MA, and honor-thesis students, a number of whom are contributors to the volume. Such “genealogical” information is important in understanding networks within the discipline. The epilogue also contextualizes the contents of the book against the work and legacy of Hally.
As good as this book is, it is really most accessible to experts in the Mississippian period of the region, which is undefined, and the individual chapter maps do not help in assessing what constitutes “Southern Appalachia” as a region of archaeological interest. Furthermore, the use of local phrase names in many of the chapters cause extra work for readers who lack familiarity with the area. A master overview map and chronology chart would have contextualized the volume for the uninitiated. Such concerns are relatively minor, for the chapters can still be profitably read as individual cases and the book as a whole as an exemplar of what can be learned from intensive long-term regional research.
This book is a solid, well-structured set of exemplars of fine, long-term research that hangs together well in terms of region, time, and multiscalar methodology. This is a volume for archaeological and ethnohistorical practitioners who work in the region, or others who wish to comparatively assess their research with this region or explore exemplars of multiscalar analysis in archaeology. [End Page 85]