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Households and Hegemony

Early Creek Prestige Goods, Symbolic Capital, and Social Power

Cameron B. Wesson

Publication Year: 2008

The long-term significance of the household as a social and economic force—particularly in relation to authority positions or institutions—has remained relatively unexplored in North American archaeology. Households and Hegemony makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the role households played in long-term cultural change after contact with European traders and settlers.
Drawing together information from ethnohistoric records and data from one of the largest excavations in Alabama's history (the Fusihatchee Project), Cameron B. Wesson reexamines changes in early Creek culture from before and after contact with Europeans, beginning in the sixteenth century. Casting the household as a multifaceted cultural institution, he contends that important social, economic, and political transformations occurred during this time—changes that redefined the relationship between Creek households and authority. As avenues for exchange with outsiders broadened and diversified, prestige trade goods usually associated with Creek elites became increasingly available to individual households, so that contact with Europeans contributed to empowerment for Creek households and a weakening of traditional chiefly authority.
Wesson demonstrates that change within Creek culture in the historic period was shaped by small-scale social units and individual decisions rather than by the effects of larger social and political events. Households and Hegemony enriches our understanding of Creek history and makes a key contribution to comparative archaeological models of cultural change.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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p. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi-xii

This work represents more than a decade of archaeological field research, laboratory analysis, and writing. During this time I have been the beneficiary of innumerable acts of personal kindness and professional courtesy. I wish to acknowledge the particular contributions of Craig Sheldon, R. Barry Lewis, David Grove, Helaine Silverman, F. K. Lehman, Susan Gillespie...

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pp. xiii-xxviii

The arrival of Europeans in southeastern North America in the sixteenth century heralded profound cultural transformations for the indigenous peoples of the region. Prior to European contacts the Southeast was home to a number of geographically expansive and sociopolitically complex Native American societies (Brose 2001). These societies were governed by hereditary chiefly...

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1. Social Agents, Hegemony, and Households

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pp. 1-21

In the previous two decades there was a marked increase in archaeological studies explicitly concerned with social life in past societies (commonly referred to as social archaeology). Although they derive from a variety of distinct intellectual traditions, most of these inquiries share an interest in examining the myriad relationships involving individuals and the social, political, economic...

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2. The Creek Social Universe

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pp. 22-57

Prior to embarking upon a discussion of specific archaeologically revealed aspects of sociocultural change among the Creeks during the postcontact period, it is first necessary to present an understanding of the Creeks from ethnohistoric descriptions. Although the limitations of cultural descriptions based in an atemporal ethnographic present have been pointed out previously...

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3. Creek-European Interactions

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pp. 58-88

The forces that brought Native Americans and Europeans into contact varied greatly throughout the postcontact period, ranging from treasure hunting expeditions and military incursions to trading parties and missionary proselytizing. Beginning with the exploration of the Southeast in the sixteenth century the colonial powers of Europe---and later a fledgling United States---vied for control...

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4. Changing Creek Households

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pp. 89-124

Given the considerable variation in the relationships between Native Americans and Europeans previously examined, each interaction provides a unique opportunity for archaeological research (Cotterill 1954; Crane 1928; Knight 1985, 1994a, 1994b; Mason 1963b; Smith 1987, 1994; Swanton 1928a, 1928c, 1985; Waselkov 1993; Waselkov and Cottier 1985; Waselkov et al. 1982; Wesson and Rees, eds. 2002). Most archaeological attempts...

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pp. 125-162

The more than three centuries of interaction between the Native American peoples of the Southeast and Europeans during the time from their first contacts to the ultimate removal of the majority of indigenous peoples from the region resulted in many changes in southeastern cultures. Although these changes have been addressed in much previous research, far too little work has...

Appendix of Tables

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pp. 163-170


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pp. 171-222


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pp. 223-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780803217805
E-ISBN-10: 0803217803

Illustrations: 15 illustrations, 5 maps, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2008