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The Archaeology of Houses and Households in the Native Southeast

Benjamin A. Steere

Benjamin A. Steere’s compelling study explores the evolution of houses and households in the southeastern United States from the Woodland to the Historic Indian period (ca. 200 BC to 1800 AD).

The Archaeology of Houses and Households in the Native Southeast contributes enormously to the study of household archaeology and domestic architecture in the region. This significant volume combines both previously published and unpublished data on communities from the Southeast and is the first systematic attempt to understand the development of houses and households as interpreted through a theoretical framework developed from broad-ranging studies in cultural anthropology and archaeology.
 
Steere’s major achievement is the compilation of one of the largest and most detailed architectural datasets for the Southeast, including data for 1,258 domestic and public structures from 65 archaeological sites in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the southern parts of Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. Rare data from hard-to-find cultural resource management reports is also incorporated, creating a broad temporal and geographic scope and serving as one of many remarkable features of the book, which is sure to be of considerable value to archaeologists and anthropologists interested in comparative studies of architecture.
 
Similar to other analyses, Steere’s research uses multiple theoretical angles and lines of evidence to answer archaeological questions about houses and the people who built them. However, unlike other examinations of household archaeology, this project spans multiple time periods (Woodland, Mississippian, and Historic); is focused squarely on the Southeast; features a more unified approach, using data from a single, uniform database; and privileges domestic architecture as a line of evidence for reconstructing daily life at major archaeological sites on a much broader scale than other investigations.

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The Archaeology of Institutional Life

Edited by April M. Beisaw and James G. Gibb

Institutions pervade social life. They express community goals and values by defining the limits of socially acceptable behavior. Institutions are often vested with the resources, authority, and power to enforce the orthodoxy of their time. But institutions are also arenas in which both orthodoxies and authority can be contested. Between power and opposition lies the individual experience of the institutionalized. Whether in a boarding school, hospital, prison, almshouse, commune, or asylum, their experiences can reflect the positive impact of an institution or its greatest failings. This interplay of orthodoxy, authority, opposition, and individual experience are all expressed in the materiality of institutions and are eminently subject to archaeological investigation.
 
A few archaeological and historical publications, in widely scattered venues, have examined individual institutional sites. Each work focused on the development of a specific establishment within its narrowly defined historical context; e.g., a fort and its role in a particular war, a schoolhouse viewed in terms of the educational history of its region, an asylum or prison seen as an expression of the prevailing attitudes toward the mentally ill and sociopaths. In contrast, this volume brings together twelve contributors whose research on a broad range of social institutions taken in tandem now illuminates the experience of these institutions. Rather than a culmination of research on institutions, it is a landmark work that will instigate vigorous and wide-ranging discussions on institutions in Western life, and the power of material culture to both enforce and negate cultural norms.

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The Archaeology of Ocmulgee Old Fields, Macon, Georgia

Carol I. Mason, with a new foreword by Marvin T. Smith

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication

A 17th-century trading post and Indian town in central Georgia reveal evidence of culture contact and change.

Ocmulgee Old Fields near Macon, Georgia, is the site of a Lower Creek village and associated English trading house dating from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It was excavated in the early 1930s as part of a WPA project directed by A. R. Kelly, which focused primarily on the major Mississippian temple mounds of Macon Plateau. The specific data for the Old Fields was not analyzed until nearly 30 years after the excavation.

Part of the significance of this site lies in its secure identification with a known group of people and the linkage of those people with recognizable archaeological remains. The Old Fields site was among the very first for which this kind of identification was possible and stands at the head of a continuing tradition of historic sites archaeology in the Southeast.

Carol I. Mason's classic study of the Ocmulgee Old Fields site has been a model for contact-period Indian archaeology since the 1960s. The report includes a discussion of the historic setting and an analysis of the archaeological materials with an identification of the Lower Creek town and possibly of the English trader who lived there. Now, for the first time, the original report is widely available in book form. With a new foreword by the author and a new introduction from Southeastern archaeology expert Marvin T. Smith, readers have the benefit of a contemporary view of this very fine piece of careful scholarship.

Carol I. Mason is Adjunct Professor of Archaeology at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and author of Wisconsin Indians: Prehistory to Statehood. Marvin T. Smith is Professor of Anthropology at Valdosta State University and author of Coosa: The Rise and Fall of a Southeastern Mississippian Chiefdom.

Additional reviews:

"This volume is valuable as a landmark in Southeastern research. It is somewhat outdated in its archaeological comparisons, but it is an excellent source for site findings and historical documentation. . . . The book provides greater insight into more current documents on the topic of these early relationships between the Old and New Worlds in the Southeast. It is a starting point from which to move forward and is valuable as a catalyst for future research."—Southeastern Archaeology

" Mason's work presents the analysis and interpretation of a large body of material excavated by Works Progress Administration archaeologists during the 1930s and, in this case, continued into the 1940s. Large-scale projects, undertaken by field crews numbering in the hundreds of workers, amassed quantities of artifactual material and supporting documentation. In many instances, substantial amounts of material remain unanalyzed and unreported to this day. . . . The Ocmulgee Old Fields site with its mix of indigenous and European people, local material culture and trade goods, and varied functions represents an opportunity to study the Lower Creeks between 1670 and 1717. . . .I recommend (this volume) to all colleagues laboring to understand the early historic peiod in the Southeast."—The Florida Anthropologist

"A masterful blend of meticulous archaeological analysis and wide-ranging historical research . . . with extraordinary style and wisdom."—Journal of Field Archaeology

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Archaeology of Southern Urban Landscapes

The rapid growth and development of urban areas in the South have resulted in an increase in the number of urban archaeology projects required by federal and state agencies. These projects provide opportunities not only to investigate marginal areas between the town and countryside but also to recover information long buried beneath the earliest urban structures. Such projects have also created a need for a one-volume update on archaeology as it is practiced in the urban areas of the southeastern United States.

Archaeology of Southern Urban Landscapes will assist practitioners and scholars in the burgeoning fields of urban and landscape archaeology by treating the South as a distinctive social, geographic, and material entity and by focusing on the urban South rather than the stereotypical South of rural plantations. The case studies in this volume span the entire southeastern United States, from Annapolis to New Orleans and from colonial times to the 19th century. The authors address questions involving the function of cities, interregional diversity, the evolution of the urban landscape, and the impact of the urban landscape on southern culture. By identifying the relationship between southern culture and the South's urban landscapes, this book will help us understand the built landscape of the past and predict future growth in the region.

The volume includes:
 

Introduction: Urban Archaeology in the South, Amy L. Young
 

Southern Town Plans, Storytelling, and Historical Archaeology, Linda Derry
 

Mobile's Waterfront: The Development of a Port City, Bonnie L. Gums and George W. Shorter Jr.
 

Urbanism in the Colonial South: The Development of Seventeenth-Century Jamestown, Audrey J. Horning
 

Archaeology at Covington, Kentucky: A Particularly "Northern-looking" Southern City, Robert A. Genheimer
 

Charleston's Powder Magazine and the Development of a Southern City, Martha A. Zierden
 

Archaeology and the African-American Experience in the Urban South, J. W. Joseph
 

Ethnicity in the Urban Landscape: The Archaeology of Creole New Orleans, Shannon Lee Dawdy
 

Developing Town Life in the South: Archaeological Investigations at Blount Mansion, Amy L. Young
 

The Making of the Ancient City: Annapolis in the Antebellum Era, Christopher N. Matthews
 

Urban Archaeology in Tennessee: Exploring the Cities of the Old South, Patrick H. Garrow
 

Archaeological Views of Southern Culture and Urban Life, Paul R. Mullins and Terry H. Klein

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Archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley

A classic work detailing an 11,000-year period of human culture within the largest river system of North America.

The earliest recorded description of the Central Mississippi Valley and its inhabitants is contained within the DeSoto chronicles written after the conquistadors passed through the area between 1539 and 1543. In 1882 a field agent for the Bureau of American Ethnology conducted the first systematic archaeological survey of the region, an area that extends from near the mouth of the Ohio River to the mouth of the Arkansas River, bounded on the east by the Mississippi River and on the west by the Ozark Highlands and Grand Prairie. One hundred years later, the authors produced this first comprehensive overview of all of the archaeological research conducted in the valley during the interim. It is a well-organized compendium, written with both the professional archaeologist and the layperson in mind, and is profusely illustrated with maps, charts, artifact photographs, and drawings. This volume was the first published history of the archaeology of the region and stands as the basic resource for that work today.


 

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Archaeology of the Lower Muskogee Creek Indians, 1715-1836

Howard Thomas Foster

The Muskogee Indians who lived along the lower Chattahoochee and Flint River watersheds had, and continue to have, a profound influence on the development of the southeastern United States, especially during the historic period (circa 1540–1836). Our knowledge of that culture is limited to what we can learn from their descendants and from archaeological and historical sources.
 
Combining historical documents and archaeological research on all known Lower Muskogee Creek sites, Thomas Foster has accurately pinpointed town locations discussed in the literature and reported in contemporary Creek oral histories. In so doing, this volume synthesizes the archaeological diversity and variation within the Lower Creek Indians between 1715 and 1836. The book is a study of archaeological methods because it analyzes the temporal and geographic variation within a single archaeological phase and the biases of that archaeological data. Foster's research segregates the variation between Lower Creek Indian towns through a regional and direct historic approach. Consequently, he is able to discern the unique differences between individual Creek Indian towns. 
 
Foster argues that the study of Creek Indian history should be at the level of towns instead of archaeological phases and that there is significant continuity between the culture of the Historic Period Indians and the Prehistoric and Protohistoric peoples.
  
H. Thomas Foster II, a specialist in archaeology and human ecology, is Lecturer of Anthropology at Northern Kentucky University and editor ofThe Collected Works of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796–1810Mary Theresa Bonhage-Freund is a specialist in archaeobotanical analysis at Alma College. Lisa O'Steen is a specialist in zooarchaeological analysis at Wildcat Ridge, Watkinsville, Georgia.

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Archaeology of the Moundville Chiefdom

Chronology, Content, Contest

Edited by Vernon James Knight Jr. and Vincas P. Steponaitis, with a foreword byChistopher S. Peebles

At its height the Moundville ceremonial center was a densely occupied town of approximately 1,000 residents, with at least 29 earthen mounds surrounding a central plaza. Today, Moundville is not only one the largest and best-preserved Mississippian sites in the United States, but also one of the most intensively studied. This volume brings together nine Moundville specialists who trace the site’s evolution and eventual decline.

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The Archaeology of Town Creek

Written by Edmond A. Boudreaux

The sequence of change for public architecture during the Mississippian period may reflect a centralization of political power through time. In the research presented here, some of the community-level assumptions attributed to the appearance of Mississippian mounds are tested against the archaeological record of the Town Creek site—the remains of a town located on the northeastern edge of the Mississippian culture area. In particular, the archaeological record of Town Creek is used to test the idea that the appearance of Mississippian platform mounds was accompanied by the centralization of political authority in the hands of a powerful chief.
 
A compelling argument has been made that mounds were the seats and symbols of political power within Mississippian societies. While platform mounds have been a part of Southeastern Native American communities since at least 100 B.C., around A.D. 400 leaders in some communities began to place their houses on top of earthen mounds—an act that has been interpreted as an attempt to legitimize personal authority by a community leader through the appropriation of a powerful, traditional, community-oriented symbol. Platform mounds at a number of sites were preceded by a distinctive type of building called an earthlodge—a structure with earth-embanked walls and an entrance indicated by short, parallel wall trenches. Earthlodges in the Southeast have been interpreted as places where a council of community leaders came together to make decisions based on consensus. In contrast to the more inclusive function proposed for premound earthlodges, it has been argued that access to the buildings on top of Mississippian platform mounds was limited to a much smaller subset of the community. If this was the case and if ground-level earthlodges were more accessible than mound-summit structures, then access to leaders and leadership may have decreased through time.
 
Excavations at the Town Creek archaeological site have shown that the public architecture there follows the earthlodge-to-platform mound sequence that is well known across the South Appalachian subarea of the Mississippian world. The clear changes in public architecture coupled with the extensive exposure of the site's domestic sphere make Town Creek an excellent case study for examining the relationship among changes in public architecture and leadership within a Mississippian society.

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Archaeopoetics

Word, Image, History

Mandy Bloomfield

Archaeopoetics explores “archaeological poetry,” ground-breaking and experimental writing by innovative poets whose work opens up broad new avenues by which contemporary readers may approach the past, illuminating the dense web of interconnections often lost in traditional historiography.
 
Critic Mandy Bloomfield traces the emergence of a significant historicist orientation in recent poetry, exemplified by the work of five writers: American poet Susan Howe, Korean-American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, British poet Maggie O’Sullivan, and diasporic African Caribbean writers Kamau Brathwaite and M. NourbeSe Philip. Bloomfield sets the work of these five authors within a vigorous tradition, including earlier work by Ezra Pound and Walter Benjamin, and then shows how these five poets create poems that engender new encounters with pivotal episodes in history, such as the English regicide or Korea’s traumatized twentieth century.
 
Exploring our shared but imperfectly understood history as well as omissions and blind spots in historiography, Bloomfield outlines the tension between the irretrievability of effaced historical evidence and the hope that poetry may reconstitute such unrecoverable histories. She posits that this tension is fertile, engendering a form of aesthetically enacted epistemological enquiry.
 
Fascinating and seminal, Archaeopoetics pays special attention to the sensuous materiality of texts and most especially to the visual manifestations of poetry. The poems in Archaeopoetics employ the visual imagery of the word itself or incorporate imagery into the poetry to propose persuasive alternatives to narrative or discursive frameworks of historical knowledge.

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Archeology of the Funeral Mound

Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia

Charles H. Fairbanks, with a new introduction by Mark Williams

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication

A premier mound site offers a wealth of primary data on mortuary practices in the Mississippian Period.

The largest prehistoric mound site in Georgia is located in modern-day Macon and is known as Ocmulgee. It was first recorded in August 1739 by General James Oglethorpe’s rangers during an expedition to the territory of the Lower Creeks. The botanist William Bartram wrote extensively of the ecology of the area during his visit in 1773, but the 1873 volume by Charles C. Jones, Antiquities of the Southern Indians, Particularly of the Georgia Tribes, was the first to treat the archaeological significance of the site.

Professional excavations began at Ocmulgee in 1933 under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, using Civil Works Administration labor. Investigations continued under a variety of sponsorships until December 1936, when the locality was formally named a national monument. Excavation of the mounds, village sites, earth lodge, and funeral mound revealed an occupation of the Macon Plateau spanning more than 7,000 years. The funeral mound was found to contain log tombs, bundles of disarticulated bones, flexed burials, and cremations. Grave goods included uniquely patterned copper sun disks that were found at only one other site in the Southeast—the Bessemer site in Alabama—so the two ceremonial centers were established as contemporaries.

In this classic work of archaeological research and analysis, Charles Fairbanks has not only offered a full treatment of the cultural development and lifeways of the builders of Ocmulgee but has also related them effectively to other known cultures of the prehistoric Southeast.

 

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