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Constructing a New Society after the Angel Chiefdom Collapse

Written by David Pollack

Publication Year: 2004

An important case study of chiefdom collapse and societal reemergence. Caborn-Welborn, a late Mississippian (A.D. 1400?) farming society centered at the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash Rivers (in what is now southwestern Indiana, southeastern Illinois, and northwestern Kentucky), developed following the collapse of the Angel chiefdom (A.D. 1000?). Using ceramic and settlement data, David Pollack examines the ways in which that new society reconstructed social, political, and economic relationships from the remnants of the Angel chiefdom. Unlike most instances of the demise of a complex society led by elites, the Caborn-Welborn population did not become more inward-looking, as indicated by an increase in extraregional interaction, nor did they disperse to smaller more widely scattered settlements, as evidenced by a continuation of a hierarchy that included large villages. This book makes available for the first time detailed, well-illustrated descriptions of Caborn-Welborn ceramics, identifies ceramic types and attributes that reflect Caborn-Welborn interaction with Oneota tribal groups and central Mississippi valley Mississippian groups, and offers an internal regional chronology. Based on intraregional differences in ceramic decoration, the types of vessels interred with the dead, and cemetery location, Pollack suggests that in addition to the former Angel population, Caborn-Welborn society may have included households that relocated to the Ohio/Wabash confluence from nearby collapsing polities, and that Caborn-Welborn's sociopolitical organization could be better considered as a riverine confederacy. "A fine scholarly presentation of the data, resulting in a new interpretation of this culture. . . . Dr. Pollack has produced an excellent case study of the collapse of a Mississippian society and its subsequent reformation. Since the unfortunate looting of the Slack Farm site in the late 1980s, archaeologists have wanted to see information on this society. . . . The graphics are most impressive." —Marvin T. Smith, Valdosta State University David Pollack is Staff Archaeologist with the Kentucky Heritage Council and Director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. v


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pp. vii-viii


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

This book is a revised version of my dissertation, which was completed at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. I would like to thank my dissertation committee (Dr. Richard W. Jefferies, Dr. John Van Willigan, Dr. Kim A. McBride, and Dr. John Watkins) and the outside reader (Dr. Theda Perdue) for their instructive comments and constructive...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-10

Understanding how populations reconstruct social, political, and economic relationships after the collapse of a chiefdom has long been of interest to archaeologists (Anderson 1990; Barker and Pauketat 1992; Drennan and Uribe 1987; Earle 1991; Yoffee and Cowgill 1995). Research has shown that societies respond in a variety of ways to the demise of an elite class (Anderson 1990, 1994; Tainter 1988; Welch 1991) and the...

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2. Pre-A.D. 1400 Mississippian Regional Centers, Angel’s Collapse, and Caborn-Welborn Developments in the Lower Ohio River Valley

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pp. 11-34

Like other Mississippian societies in the lower Ohio River valley, and in fact throughout the Midwest and Southeast in general, the Angel chiefdom can be characterized as a cluster of settlements inhabited by a population that was linked socially, politically, and economically and that shared a common ideology (Smith 1978). The Angel site was the...

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3. Ceramic Descriptions

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pp. 35-76

Ceramics, triangular endscrapers, and small quantities of Euro-American trade goods are the three main material culture attributes that archaeologists use to identify Caborn-Welborn components. Of the three, ceramics are by far the most numerous and the most temporally and functionally sensitive artifact class. For these reasons, the interpretations...

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4. Site Types and Their Spatial Distribution

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pp. 77-123

Like earlier Mississippian societies of the lower Ohio valley, the Caborn-Welborn settlement system included several different site types. Green and Munson (1978) defined four types: farmsteads, hamlets, small villages, and large villages (see also Green 1977; Muller 1986). A fifth type, blufftop cemeteries not directly associated with a habitation...

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5. Temporal Trends

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pp. 124-153

Before the Caborn-Welborn population’s response to the collapse of the Angel chiefdom can be understood and placed within a broader context, some measure of control of internal Caborn-Welborn developments is needed. Through the identification of Caborn-Welborn temporal trends in material culture, it should be possible to determine whether intersite variation...

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6. Cultural and Functional Ceramic Patterns

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pp. 154-180

With the temporal trends in Caborn-Welborn ceramics identified and a chronological sequence outlined for Caborn-Welborn sites, it is now possible to examine the ceramic data for other patterns, ones that have the potential to provide insights into how the Caborn-Welborn population reconstructed social, political, and economic relationships following...

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7. Interpretations and Conclusions

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pp. 181-209

Understanding chiefdom collapse, the consequences of collapse, and the processes by which individual societies reconstruct political, economic, and social relationships following the demise of a complex society have long been of interest to archaeologists (Anderson 1990; Cowgill 1979; Earle 1991; Tainter 1988; Yoffee and Cowgill 1995). However...

References Cited

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pp. 211-228


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pp. 229-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382230
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817351267

Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 320323782
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Caborn-Welborn

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mississippian culture -- Wabash River Valley.
  • Mississippian pottery -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Mississippian pottery -- Wabash River Valley.
  • Chiefdoms -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Mississippian culture -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Wabash River Valley -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Wabash River Valley.
  • Ohio River Valley -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Chiefdoms -- Wabash River Valley.
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