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Societies in Eclipse

Archaeology of the Eastern Woodlands Indians, A.D. 1400-1700

Edited by David S. Brose, C. Wesley Cowan, and Robert C. Mainfort, with contrib

Publication Year: 2010

While contact with explorers, missionaries, and traders made a significant impact on natives of the Eastern Woodlands, Indian peoples cannot be solely understood from the historical record. Here, in Societies in Eclipse, archaeologists combine recent research with insights from anthropology, historiography, and oral tradition to examine the cultural landscape preceding and immediately following the arrival of Europeans. The evidence suggests that native societies were in the process of significant cultural transformation prior to contact.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii -viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-

List of Contributors

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pp. xi-

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pp. xiii- xiv

In 1992, C. Wesley Cowan, curator of archaeology at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, was invited to organize a symposium centered "sort of around Pittsburgh," where the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology was being held. The topic-changes undergone by Native American societies in eastern North America immediately before and after Columbus's landfall in the Caribbean-was timely, and the symposium (a two-session affair) was well attended. ...

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1 Introduction to Eastern North America at the Dawn of European Colonization

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pp. 1-7

Curiosity about the aboriginal people of the New World is as great in the United States today as it was among Europeans five hundred years ago, when Native Americans met the first Europeans since the Norsemen to arrive on the Atlantic shore. The history of American Indian cultural traditions has always been part of North American collective history. Yet the collective image of American Indian societies exists largely in terms of European and Anglo-American ideas of science and history ...

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2 The Distribution of Eastern Woodlands Peoples at the Prehistoric and Historic Interface

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pp. 9-18

For the Eastern Woodlands as much as for the rest of the Americas, Columbus's landfall heralded the beginning of an era of Old and New World contact that ultimately devastated Native American peoples and their cultures (Cronon 1983; Crosby 1972; Dobyns 1983, 1993; Milanich 1992; Milner 1980; Ramenofsky 1987; M. Smith 1987, 1994; Thornton 1987). Despite a large body of scholarship on the postcontact period, there remains considerable uncertainty ...

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3 Evolution of the Mohawk Iroquois

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pp. 19- 25

In the seventeenth century, the Mohawks were one of several surviving nations speaking northern Iroquoian languages (Fig. 3.1). Each of these nations lived in communities located amid named clusters of older, abandoned village sites. In addition to the named clusters, there remained in the region other clusters of sites representing groups that did not survive long enough to be observed and named ...

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4 Change and Survival among the Onondaga Iroquois since 1500

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pp. 27-36

In a discussion of "societies in eclipse," the Onondaga Iroquois are an anomaly. Unlike most native groups east of the Mississippi, the Onondaga survived the trauma of European contact and remain to this day a distinct cultural entity. Moreover, they still reside within the boundaries of their traditional homeland in what is now central New York state. Archaeologically, the Onondaga can be tracked over a period of at least 600 years. ...

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5 Contact, Neutral Iroquoian Transformation, and the Little Ice Age

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pp. 37-47

The explanation of cultural developments among the Neutral Iroquoians of southern Ontario during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has been influenced largely by the fact that many of the changes occurred during the initial era of European presence in eastern North America. A reevaluation of the available archaeological, ecological, and climatic record, however, reveals other human and natural agents ...

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6 Penumbral Protohistory on Lake Erie's South Shore

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pp. 49-65

Unseen by French explorers at the begiruring of the seventeenth century, warfare rendered Lake Erie's south shore inaccessible to French and English exploration for generations. The Europeans' dim glimpses of the area's early historical inhabitants remind me of Churchill's view of Russia: a riddle shrouded in mystery wrapped in enigma. ...

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7 The Protohistoric Monongahela and the Case for an Iroquois Connection

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pp. 67- 82

The Monongahela culture was the dominant late prehistoric (ca. A.D. 1050/1100-1580) and protohistoric (1580- 1635) manifestation in the lower portion of the upper Ohio River valley of southwestern Pennsylvania and adjacent portions of West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio. ...

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8 Transformation of the Fort Ancient Cultures of the Central Ohio Valley

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pp. 83-106

For most of eastern North America, the seven centuries between A.D. 1000 and 1700 bracket the emergence, florescence, and radical transformation of societies whose economies were based primarily on field agriculture. In the central Ohio Valley, these agricultural people are known archaeologically as the Fort Ancient culture or tradition (Griffin 1943; Prufer and Shane 1970). Unlike many of the other regions discussed in this book, the central Ohio Valley did not enter the realm of recorded history ...

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9 Monacan Archaeology of the Virginia Interior, A.D. 1400–1700

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pp. 107-123

An abundant and accessible ethnohistoric record and an increasingly well-synthesized prehistoric and contact-era archaeology make the Algonquian Powhatan people of coastal Virginia among the better-known tribal groups at European contact in eastern North America (Barbour 1986; Potter 1993; Rountree 1989; Turner 1985). The culture and history of native peoples of the interior ...

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10 Tribes and Traders on the North Carolina Piedmont, A.D. 1000–1710

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pp. 125-141

Because of their small sizes and their location, the "Siouanspeaking" tribes that dotted the North Carolina piedmont managed to avoid the first waves of disease and disruption ushered in by the Spaniards during the sixteenth century. Even the creation in 1607 of a permanent English colony at Jamestown had no immediate impact upon these piedmont Siouans. Although word of the light-skinned foreigners and occasional trinkets ...

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11 The Rise and Fall of Coosa, A.D. 1350–1700

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pp. 143-155

When encountered by the Hernando de Soto expedition in 1540, Coosa was one of the largest complex chiefdoms in eastern North America, controlling a vast area of presentday eastern Tennessee, northwestern Georgia, and northeastern Alabama (Hudson, Smith, and DePratter 1984). Recent research into Coosa suggests that this polity was a relative newcomer on the scene ...

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12 The Emergence and Demise of the Calusa

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pp. 157-171

In early sixteenth-century southwest Florida, Europeans encountered a complex and powerful society known as the Calusa. Divided into nobles and commoners, the Calusa supported a special military force and collected tribute from throughout south Florida. Their belief system encompassed daily offerings to their ancestors and a concept of afterlife. Elaborate rituals included processions ...

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13 The Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Periods in the Central Mississippi Valley

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pp. 173-189

Although stripped of its mantle as the "heartland" of the Mississippian cultural tradition (B. Smith 1984), the central Mississippi Valley remains essential to any attempt to understand the societies and dynamics of the late prehistoric and protohistoric periods in eastern North America. The richness of the late period archaeological record of this region was recognized in the 1800s ...

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14 The Vacant Quarter Hypothesis and the Yazoo Delta

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pp. 191-203

This chapter encompasses a 450-year period (A.D. 1400- 1850) in the Yazoo Delta, a physiographic region in the southern part of the Mississippi Valley (Fig. 14.1) for which I trace the known Indian occupation against the background of current archaeological and historical data. ...

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15 Prelude to History on the Eastern Prairies

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pp. 205-228

At the time of European contact, Indians of the eastern prairies possessed a cultural life that was organized around an economy divided between long-distance upland hunting of bison or elk and localized hunting and mixed agriculture. The semisedentary setdement practices associated with this economy were markedly different from those that had existed 500 years earlier. ...

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16 Postscript

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pp. 229-232

The chapters in this volume provide a badly needed synthesis of archaeological research on aboriginal people living in eastern North America at the time of European contact. Chapter 2, by Milner, Anderson, and Smith, offers a valuable set of first-level approximations of how people distributed themselves across the Eastern Woodlands. As the other chapters then clearly set out, some of the precontact societies survived; others did not. ...

References Cited

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pp. 233-278


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pp. 279-283

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383398
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817353520

Publication Year: 2010