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The Chattahoochee Chiefdoms

Written by John H. Blitz and Karl G. Lorenz

Publication Year: 2006

An overview and model of complex society in the prehistoric Southeast.
 
Along the banks of the lower Chattahoochee River, the remains of ancient settlements are abundant, including archaeological sites produced by Native Americans between 900 and 350 years ago, and marked by the presence of large earthen mounds. Like similar monuments elsewhere in the Southeastern United States, the lower Chatta-hoochee River mounds have long attracted the attention of travelers, antiquarians, and archaeologists.

As objects from the mounds were unearthed, occasionally illustrated and discussed in print, attention became focused on the aesthetic qualities of the artifacts, the origins of the remains, and the possible relationship to the Creek Indians. Beginning in the 20th century, new concerns emerged as the developing science of archaeology was introduced to the region. As many of the sites became threatened or destroyed by reservoir construction, trained archaeologists initiated extensive excavations of the mounds.  Although classification of artifacts and sites into a chronological progression of cultures was the main objective of this effort, a second concern, sometimes more latent than manifest, was the reconstruction of a past way of life. Archaeologists hoped to achieve a better understanding of the sociopolitical organization of the peoples who built the mounds and of how those organizations changed through time. 

Contemporary archaeologists, while in agreement on many aspects of the ancient cultures, debate the causes, forms, and degrees of sociopolitical complexity in the ancient Southeast. Do the mounds mark the capitals of political territories? If so, what was the scale and scope of these ancient “provinces”? What manner of society constructed the mound settlements? What was the sociopolitical organization of these long-dead populations? How can archaeologists answer such queries with the mute and sometimes ordinary materials with which they work: pottery, stone tools, organic residues, and the strata of remnant settlements, buildings, and mounds?
         

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Cover Art

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p. Cover-Cover

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Illustrations

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pp. vii-xi

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Acknowledgments

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p. xiii-xiii

We take this opportunity to thank those individuals and institutions that aided us in this research. In particular, Frank T. Schnell shared his knowledge, encouraged us to pursue this project, and provided access to many of the materials that made it possible. Thanks, Frank. The research reported here was supported by the University of Oklahoma and Shippensburg University. We thank these institutions for

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1. Political and Social Integration in Rank Societies: A Mississippian Case Study

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pp. 1-10

In this chapter we map out the theoretical and methodological terrain that must be traversed before we can go from archaeological remains to an understanding of Mississippian political and social integration. Our effort is part of an ongoing dialogue in anthropological archaeology concerned with the origins and development of complex society. Scholars inquiring into the ...

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2. Mississippian Political and Social Integration

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pp. 11-28

In this chapter we map out the theoretical and methodological terrain that must be traversed before we can go from archaeological remains to an understanding of Mississippian political and social integration. Our effort is part of an ongoing dialogue in anthropological archaeology concerned with the origins and development of complex society. Scholars inquiring into the ...

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3. Archaeology of the Mound Centers

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pp. 29-59

Excavations into the platform mounds along the lower Chattahoochee River have taken place numerous times over many years for various reasons. One early digger, F. W. Miller, was an artifact collector motivated either by curiosity or pro┬Ąt (Brandon 1909). Harvard-educated C. B. Moore (1907) developed a dilettante's enthusiasm into serious scholarship, and yet his research seldom went beyond illustrated catalogs of finds. By the middle...

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4. The Cultural Chronology: A.D. 1100-1650

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pp. 60-73

With the pottery and radiocarbon samples secured by mound excavations, reviewed in the previous chapter, we can now construct a chronology of mound centers for the region. This chronological ordering of centers builds on the efforts of other archaeologists. Caldwell's (1955) work ...

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5. Archaeological Measures of Political Integration

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pp. 74-98

With analysis of mound excavations and construction of a cultural chronology, we are now in a position to identify variation in Mississippian polity forms and measure political integration in the lower Chattahoochee River valley over the course of six centuries. In order to do so, we use a mound-center ...

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6. Archaeological Measures of Social Integration

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pp. 99-121

Although the lower Chattahoochee polities were politically independent, they were not isolated from one another. The polity fission-fusion process involved political power shifts from one center to another. Mound-center polities grew or declined, in part, in response to interactions with other centers. The decorated pottery found at the mound centers is one indication of such interactions. Attributes of pottery form, composition, and decoration...

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7. The Rise and Decline of the Chattahoochee Chiefdoms

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pp. 122-135

Our research presents a unique culture history and yet polity formation, growth, and decline in the lower Chattahoochee region cannot be understood as isolated or particular developments. Similar political and social dynamics unfolded across the Southeast. There are several reasons for this: historically related population movements from ancestral areas of development, widely shared subsistence strategies, organizational patterns common to...

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8. Research Synopsis and Theory Synthesis

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pp. 136-144

In the preceding pages we addressed some fundamental issues in the development of complex society in the ancient American Southeast. As a research strategy, models of sociopolitical organization were evaluated with evidence generated through archaeological excavations. Our research goal was to identify forms and scales of political and social integration in the lower ...

Appendix A. The Multiple-Mound-Center Excavations

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pp. 145-184

Appendix B. The Single-Mound-Center Excavations

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pp. 185-224

Appendix C. Pottery Classification

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pp. 225-252

Appendix D. Seriation Methods

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pp. 253-260

References Cited

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pp. 261-278

Index, Back Cover

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pp. 279-288


E-ISBN-13: 9780817384609
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817352776

Page Count: 303
Publication Year: 2006

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Subject Headings

  • Chiefdoms -- Chattahoochee River Valley.
  • Indians of North America -- Chattahoochee River Valley -- Politics and government.
  • Indians of North America -- Chattahoochee River Valley -- Kings and rulers.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Chattahoochee River Valley.
  • Chattahoochee River Valley -- Antiquities.
  • Mississippian culture -- Chattahoochee River Valley.
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