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Ancient Chiefdoms of the Tombigbee

Written by John H. Blitz

Publication Year: 1993

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication


Within the last 50 years archaeologists have discovered that around the 10th century A.D., native southeastern peoples began a process of cultural change far more complex than anything that had occurred previously. These late prehistoric societies—known as Mississippian—have come to be regarded as chiefdoms. The chiefdoms are of great anthropological interest because in these kinds of societies social hierarchies or rank and status were first institutionalized.


Ancient Chiefdoms of the Tombigbee focuses on both the small- and large-scale Mississippian societies in the Tombigbee-Black Warrior River region of Alabama and Mississippi. Exploring the relationships involving polity size, degree of social ranking, and resource control provides insights into cycles of chiefdom development and fragmentation. Blitz concludes that the sanctified, security maintenance roles of communal food storage management and war leadership were a sufficient basis for formal chiefly authority but insufficient for economically based social stratification.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Contents

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pp. v-

Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

It has been said that many who are attracted to archaeology are driven by a deep-seated desire to satisfy some unconscious feeling of loss. Whether this is often so, I cannot say. My own experience with archaeology has been marked not by loss but by gain, and the greatest gain has been the acquaintance of many people who have enthusiastically aided and motivated me in my personal exploration of the past. I take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to all of them....

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-4

We are concerned here with an interpretation of the material remains of prehistoric farmers who once inhabited the central Tombigbee River valley in what is now Alabama and Mississippi. For much of the 1970s a dedicated team of archaeologists and students, supported by universities and federal agencies, labored to retrieve information about these ancient societies before their dwelling places were ...

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2. Organizational Variability in Mississippian Societies

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pp. 5-30

When the early Euro-American pioneers first encountered earthworks in the interior river valleys of eastern North America, their discoveries sparked a tradition of inquiry that has escalated and evolved with each passing generation. An initial question centered on the origins of the mound builders: Who were these people? Popular speculation favored ancient vanished races or earlier Old World colonizers ...

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3. The Cultural-Historical Context for the Mississippian Occupation Along the Central Tombigbee River

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pp. 31-68

Although a set of common characteristics identifies a Mississippian cultural pattern that is recognizable over a wide area of the Eastern Woodlands, it is equally clear that this way of life unfolded in various ways in different localities. Only by examining the Mississippian phenomenon in specific cultural-historical settings do we gain both the necessary comparative perspective and the realization that each cultural-historical ...

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4. Platform-Mound Excavation at Lubbub Creek

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pp. 69-97

How is it possible to derive evidence from archaeological remains that would reveal a developmental relationship between management of pooled resources, group ritual, and the emergence of chiefly authority? Limitations on the ability to model complex cause-andeffect processes render archaeological data particularly ill suited to identify social relations ...

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5. Storage, Defense, and Chiefs

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pp. 98-125

We turn now to consider the Summerville settlement system in detail. It is an axiom of archaeological research, and perhaps obvious to the reader, that in order to understand a past way of life researchers must examine a representative range of locations-archaeological sites-where people conducted their daily activities. To forward...

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6. Ceramic Distributions at Lubbub Creek

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pp. 126-152

It has been argued that an important factor in the development of chiefdoms was the ability to manipulate or restrict access to valued resources (Service 1971, 1975; Peebles and Kus 1977; Wenke 1981; Wright 1984; Earle 1987). In previous chapters this issue was examined by focusing on food surpluses; but what about durable goods? Food surpluses may be used to support craft specialization, the products of which may ...

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7. Prestige Goods at Lubbub Creek and Beyond

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pp. 153-178

In chapter 2, models of Mississippian sociopolitical organization and political economy, developed from research at Moundville, were examined. A question was posed: what form will social ranking and resource control take in a smaller two-tiered settlement system-a local center and farmsteads-when compared to a three-tiered system such as Moundville? The Moundville models...

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8. Interpretations and Conclusion

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pp. 179-184

I have attempted to document changing social and economic conditions in a prehistoric native southeastern population over a 600 year interval. Several general issues have been addressed: the process of local chiefdom formation; the basis of formal leadership in simple chiefdoms such as Lubbub Creek; and the sociopolitical variation and developmental relationships between simple and complex chiefdoms in...

Appendix

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pp. 185-192

Bibliography

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pp. 193-213

Index

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pp. 215-217


E-ISBN-13: 9780817383084
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817306724

Publication Year: 1993

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Subject Headings

  • Lubub Creek Mound (Ala.).
  • Mississippian culture -- Tombigbee River Valley (Miss. and Ala.).
  • Chiefdoms -- Tombigbee River Valley (Miss. and Ala.).
  • Tombigbee River Valley (Miss. and Ala.) -- Antiquities.
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