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The Woodland Southeast

Edited by David G. Anderson and Robert C. Mainfort, with contributions from Tris

Publication Year: 2002

This collection presents, for the first time, a much-needed synthesis of the major research themes and findings that characterize the Woodland Period in the southeastern United States.

The Woodland Period (ca. 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1000) has been the subject of a great deal of archaeological research over the past 25 years. Researchers have learned that in this approximately 2000-year era the peoples of the Southeast experienced increasing sedentism, population growth, and organizational complexity. At the beginning of the period, people are assumed to have been living in small groups, loosely bound by collective burial rituals. But by the first millennium A.D., some parts of the region had densely packed civic ceremonial centers ruled by hereditary elites. Maize was now the primary food crop. Perhaps most importantly, the ancient animal-focused and hunting-based religion and cosmology were being replaced by solar and warfare iconography, consistent with societies dependent on agriculture, and whose elites were increasingly in competition with one another. This volume synthesizes the research on what happened during this era and how these changes came about while analyzing the period's archaeological record.

In gathering the latest research available on the Woodland Period, the editors have included contributions from the full range of specialists working in the field, highlighted major themes, and directed readers to the proper primary sources. Of interest to archaeologists and anthropologists, both professional and amateur, this will be a valuable reference work essential to understanding the Woodland Period in the Southeast.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. xv-xvi

Planning for The Woodland Southeast began about a decade ago, when a number of members of the southeastern archaeological community recognized the pressing need for broad yet detailed readers on major periods of southeastern prehistory, at least prior to the Mississippian period, which had and continues to attract appreciable publication effort. This volume represents...

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1. An Introduction to Woodland Archaeology in the Southeast

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pp. 1-19

The Woodland period spans the interval between roughly 3000 and 1000 B.P. (radiocarbon years before present), or from circa 1200 B.C. to A.D.1000 as calibrated in calendar years (Stuiver et al. 1998). The period has traditionally been subdivided into three subperiods, Early, Middle, and Late, to demarcate intervals characterized in general terms by the first widespread use of pottery across the Southeast, the rise and then decline of a vast ...

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2. Woodland Period Archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley

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pp. 20-43

The Central Mississippi Valley (D. Morse and P. Morse 1983) encompasses the northern portion of the lower Mississippi River alluvial valley (Figure 2.1). By the early 1900s, Holmes recognized the middle Mississippi Valley group as a geographic area with distinctive late prehistoric pottery and noted that “its greatest and most striking development centers about the contiguous portions of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ten- ...

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3. Plum Bayou Culture of the Arkansas–White River Basin

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pp. 44-65

While Toltec Mounds was recognized as an important site by Cyrus Thomas (1894:243–45), investigation nevertheless languished because museum-quality artifacts were scarce (C. B. Moore 1908:557) and the landowner was protective. A brief excavation in 1966 recovered Woodland grog-tempered ceramics that were unexpectedly in association with the Mississippian characteristics of site shape, arrangement of mounds, and embank- ...

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4. Woodland Period Archaeology of the Lower Mississippi Valley

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pp. 66-90

The Woodland is one of the best known yet paradoxically least understood temporal units in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Contrary to earlier ideas (McNutt 1996b:217; S. Williams 1963:297), the Woodland was not populated by static, “good gray” cultures, but was a time of innovation and variation. Because southeastern archaeology is often viewed throught he lens of the contact era ethnohistoric record, our understanding of Wood- ...

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5. Fourche Maline: A Woodland Period Culture of the Trans-Mississippi South

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pp. 91-112

The Woodland period culture of the large part of the Trans-Mississippi South lying south of the Arkansas Valley in western Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, northwest Louisiana, and northeast Texas (Figure 5.1) is called Fourche Maline culture. The most informative components of this culture are at sites in the Ouachita and Red River valleys in southwest Arkansas (Schambach 1982, 1998b; W. R. Wood 1963b; W. R. Wood and Early 1981) ....

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6. The Woodland Period in the Northern Ozarks of Missouri

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pp. 113-133

An understanding of the Woodland period in the northern Ozarks is as dependent upon past archaeological models as on current archaeological data. The lack of well-documented chronological markers, whether projectile points or pottery, has resulted in an interpretation of the Woodland period that stresses an ebb and flow of population into what has been characterized as a marginal environment. For the past ten years, large-scale sur- ...

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7. Woodland Period Archaeology in the American Bottom

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pp. 134-161

Between 600 B.C. and A.D. 1000 much of the eastern United States was a dynamic cultural landscape involving the interaction of human populations of varying sizes and levels of intensity. Evidence for this interaction is expressed archaeologically in stylistic affinities and the actual presence of artifactual materials. This presentation focuses on the context of the 1600 years of Woodland interaction between those populations in the Southeast ...

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8. Deconstructing the Woodland Sequence from the Heartland: A Review of Recent Research Directions in the Upper Ohio Valley

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pp. 162-184

In this chapter I review the Woodland period culture sequence (ca. 1000 B.C.–A.D. 1000) for the middle Ohio River valley with two goals. These are, first, to provide a new and informative approach to a well-known topic and, second, reference the significant, growing body of literature that I feel is shaping our interpretation of the topic today. As defined here, the upper Ohio Valley includes the main stem of the Ohio and its northern and south- ...

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9. Woodland Cultures of the Elk and Duck River Valleys, Tennessee: Continuity and Change

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pp. 185-203

Tennessee sits astride an environmental Mason-Dixon line between the Deep South Coastal Plain in west Tennessee and the oak-hickory woodlands in east Tennessee stretching east and north into the Ohio Valley and beyond. This has been a problem for Tennessee archaeologists as they wrestled with the term Woodland, since its relationship to crushed-rock-tempered, textured-surface pottery (see, for example, Sears 1948) seems ...

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10. Woodland Period Settlement Patterning in the Northern Gulf Coastal Plain of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee

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pp. 204-227

The portion of the Midsouth considered in this chapter is the area west and south of the highland rim in western Tennessee, plus north-central Mississippi and west-central Alabama. It includes the central part of the Tennessee River valley, the Tombigbee, Black Warrior, and lower Alabama River valleys, and the upland coastal plain adjacent to these valleys (Figure10.1). The Mississippi River valley proper is excluded from consideration, ...

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11. Woodland Cultural and Chronological Trends on the Southern Gulf Coastal Plain: Recent Research in the Pine Hills of Southeastern Mississippi

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pp. 228-248

Historically, archaeological research in Mississippi has been concentrated along the Mississippi River alluvial valley and in northeastern Mississippi in the Tombigbee drainage (J. Rafferty, this volume). Southern Mississippi, particularly the southern Longleaf Pine Hills region (Figure 11.1), has received considerably less attention from archaeologists. Consequently, regional syntheses of southeastern prehistory such as those by B. D. Smith ...

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12. The Woodland Period in the Appalachian Summit of Western North Carolina and the Ridge and Valley Province of Eastern Tennessee

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pp. 249-269

This regional perspective of the Woodland period examines two physiographic provinces: the Appalachian Summit and the Ridge and Valley province. Emphasis is on fieldwork results and published cultural syntheses of these two areas. The study areas are briefly defined, followed by references to previous work and a summary of the current understanding of—or differences in the understanding of—each region’s cultural-temporal phases. ...

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13. The Woodland in the Middle Atlantic: Ranking and Dynamic Political Stability

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pp. 270-291

This chapter provides a perspective from just outside the typically described Southeast in the Woodland period. Almost a century ago, Holmes drew a line at about the Virginia–North Carolina border and suggested that this line divided north and south in terms of pottery—northern pottery was “rude…simple and archaic,” while southern pottery was “advanced and complex” (Holmes 1903:22, 145). Challenged by Holmes’s division, we ...

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14. A Woodland Period Prehistory of Coastal North Carolina

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pp. 292-317

In eastern North Carolina, the Woodland era may be divided into Early (2200–400 B.C.), Middle (400 B.C.–A.D. 800), and Late (A.D. 800–1600) periods. This chapter focuses mainly on the three millennia comprising the first two periods. Ideally, the boundaries inscribing sociocultural periods and areas are meant to coincide with fundamental shifts in technology and major differences in social and cultural traditions. Often, though, bound- ...

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15. Aspects of Deptford and Swift Creek of the South Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains

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pp. 318-351

The terms Deptford and Swift Creek originated as Georgia site names (Figure 15.1). Both the Deptford type site (9CH2), in the vicinity of Savannah (Caldwell 1952:315–16; Caldwell et al. n.d.; DePratter 1991:122–56; Waring and Holder 1968), and the Swift Creek type site (9BI3), near Macon (Jefferies 1994; A. Kelly 1938; A. Kelly and B. A. Smith 1975), were excavated under various relief organizations associated with the New ...

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16. Weeden Island Cultures

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pp. 352-372

Weeden Island takes its name from an archaeological site on Weedon Island on the west side of Old Tampa Bay in Pinellas County, Florida, excavated by J. Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution in 1923–1924 (Fewkes 1924). Today the island, a nature preserve, retains the Weedon appellation, leading local residents to believe archaeologists cannot spell. The region of the Weeden Island cultures is from Mobile Bay east to the ...

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17. The Woodland Archaeology of South Florida

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pp. 373-397

The Woodland period of south Florida shares some characteristics of other areas of the eastern United States, notably the appearance of Woodland ceramics and village life. It even participates in the Hopewell Interaction Sphere. Despite these commonalities, however, this area has radically different cultural patterns from those elsewhere in the Southeast. South Florida clearly makes the shift from Late Archaic to Woodland period coeval with ...

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18. Woodland Ceramic Beginnings

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pp. 398-420

The prehistory of the southeastern United States confounds the definition of Woodland patterns set forth nearly sixty years ago by the founders of Americanist culture history (Woodland Conference 1943). Many of the defining traits of “Woodlandness” appeared some 1500 to 3000 years earlier in the preceding Archaic period. In parts of the Deep South and peninsular Florida, mound construction began nearly three millennia before Adena and ...

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19. Culture-Historical Units and the Woodland Southeast: A Case Study from Southeastern Missouri

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pp. 421-443

The archaeological record of southeastern Missouri has long been a focus of attention, and there now exists a considerable body of information on that record, especially the part that postdates circa 500 B.C.—the point at which pottery first appeared in the region. Numerous overviews have appeared over the past two decades that address that segment of prehistory in southeastern Missouri (e.g., C. Chapman 1980; Lafferty and Price 1996; R. ...

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20. Shellfish Use during the Woodland Period in the Middle South

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pp. 444-460

Over the course of 10,000 years, the importance of shellfish in south-eastern aboriginal economies apparently fluctuated a great deal. The first evidence for the intensive exploitation of freshwater mussels occurs during the mid-Holocene Hypsithermal climatic optimum (Dowd 1989; Morrison 1942; B. D. Smith 1986:22–24; Steponaitis 1986:372). This has been attributed to environmental factors, specifically the warmer and drier condi- ...

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21. Woodland Faunal Exploitation in the Midsouth

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pp. 461-482

Studies of Woodland faunal samples from sites in the Southeast have been accumulating during the past 20 years, but there have been few attempts to synthesize the growing body of information (see Wing 1977 for an early exception). In this chapter we begin by identifying factors that likely affected the subsistence strategies of various southeastern Woodland groups and also some issues in zoo archaeological methodology that affect produc- ...

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22. The Development and Dispersal of Agricultural Systems in the Woodland Period Southeast

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pp. 483-501

As the archaeobotanical record of plant use in eastern North America grows, it becomes increasingly apparent that the economic role of food production during the Woodland period varies considerably across the region (Fritz 1990a; B. D. Smith 1987). The pattern that has attracted the most attention to date is the relative scarcity of evidence for native seed crops in the Southeast, especially prior to the development of maize-based...

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23. Woodland Cave Archaeology in Eastern North America

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pp. 502-524

There are hundreds of thousands of caves throughout the vast limestone-bedrock region of the United States that extends from Missouri through southern Illinois and Indiana to the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, and Florida. Beginning at least as early as 4500 years ago, the people who lived in this karstic area traveled into and through dozens of these caves, using them as quarries, mines, cemeteries, ...

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24. Domesticating Self and Society in the Woodland Southeast

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pp. 525-539

Unraveling the nature of social organization in the Woodland Southeast has traditionally been approached from a number of different directions, notably mortuary practices, exchange networks, and settlement patterns. Earthworks have also constituted an important venue for addressing social complexity. Mound-building traditions such as Poverty Point, Marksville, Coles Creek, and Mississippian have been used by archaeolo- ...

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25. Epilogue: Future Directions for Woodland Archaeology in the Southeast

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pp. 540-542

The contributors to this volume examine the Woodland period occupation of the Southeast from a variety of perspectives, ranging from geographical and topical overviews of cultural developments and archaeological research, to considerations of how this record of research and interpretation has been shaped by our approaches to systematics and taxonomy, to how the world view and cosmology of the Southeast’s prehistoric Wood- ...

References Cited

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pp. 543-663


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pp. 664-667


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pp. 668-680

E-ISBN-13: 9780817313173
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817311377

Page Count: 696
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Southern States -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of North America -- Southern States -- Antiquities.
  • Woodland culture -- Southern States.
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