THE EASTERN WOODLANDS

ARCHAIC IN THE EAST

 

         The Region

 

- huge area extending from 400-500 km west of Mississippi in west to Atlantic Ocean in east; from Maritimes to Florida; from southern Manitoba to east Texas

- generally thought of a south of Boreal Forest; but...

- not at all times -- during early Holocene ice, tundra, and boreal forest extended well south of Great Lakes...

- and not in all places -- during warm, dry Hypsithermal (eastern version of Altithermal), prairie grasslands pushed well east of present boundary

- seen by some as a single culture area; by others as at least two culture areas: Northeast and Southeast

 

 

         Archaic Introduction and Overview

 

- Eastern Archaic dated from 10,000-3,000 BP (although it persisted later in some areas -- remember, Archaic is both a period (easily dated) and a developmental stage (not so easily dated))

- generally divided into three periods: Early Archaic, Middle Archic, Late Archaic

- Early Archaic (10,000-8,000 BP); sometimes called Initial period or Transition (from Paleoindian) period

- early Holocene, a time of climatic warming and rapidly changing environments; broad-leaf forest in SE, but glaciers still receding in NE, leaving tundra and boreal forest in between


- Early Archaic well represented in SE and central Midwest, but largely absent from Great Lakes area (boreal forest at the time)

- Middle Archaic (8,000-5,500 BP); sometimes called Generalized period; populations settling into region, expanding the subsistence base -- Aarchaic efficiency@ concept

- Middle Archaic is best known from SE and Midwest, but also extends to Great Lakes and as far as Quebec/Labrador

- Late Archaic (5,500-3,000 BP); sometimes called Specialization period; characterized by specialized, intensive targeting of local environments for resources, early cultivation of native plants, introduction of pottery

- Late Archaic well known from all areas, especially Great Lakes

 

 


         Early Archaic

 

- largely restricted to southern states, due to environmental conditions

- poorly known in terms of faunal and botanical remains (poor preservation), but well known in terms of projectile point sequence, which defines Atlantic Slope Tradition

- Dalton (Hardaway) points mark transition from Paleoindian to Early Archaic, c. 10,000-9,500 BP

- series of side-notched points, including Big Sandy I, only slightly younger than terminal Dalton

- Kirk points (c. 9,000 BP), corner-notched, often serrated

- bifurcate stemmed (St. Albans, LeCroy) points and short stemmed (Stanly) points, dated c. 8,000-7,500 BP

- Morrow Mountain points mark transition to Middle Archaic

- this point sequence widely distributed throughout southern U.S., and along Atlantic coast (Piedmont) to southern New England

- point types used as sequential Ahorizon styles@ (J. Tuck); Dalton (Hardaway), Side-notched, Corner-notched, Bifurcate Stemmed

Q: why were point styles uniform over such large area?

A: reciprocal exchange between small groups increasingly anchored to small territories

 

Q: why change from lanceolate (Paleoindian) to notched and stemmed points (Early Archaic)?

A: change in hunting technique from spear thrusting to spear throwing

 

Hardaway site

- overlooks Yadkin River, N. Carolina; excavated by J. Coe, 1950s

- shallow midden accumulation (< 1 m), but rich; stone artifacts 40% of volume

- key site in documenting Paleoindian - Early Archaic transition -- contains most major point types in sequence, from Dalton-Hardaway to Morrow Mountain

- later work by B. Broyles at St. Albans (W. Virginia) added bifurcate stemmed types to list

 

- Early Archaic subsistence probably more limited, in terms of resources exploited, than Middle and Late Archaic due to lower population levels

- nuts gathered and white-tailed deer hunted in upland areas in fall; return to Abottoms@ in winter, spring for fishing


- settlement pattern of riverine transhumance suggested for Atlantic Slope (Anderson and Hanson)

 

 

         Middle Archaic

 

- settling-in period; steady human population increase leads to expansion of resource base and addition of new items to technology; increasing Archaic efficiency

- population growth also leads to more restricted, circumscribed territories by the late Middle Archaic

- early Middle Archaic (8,000-6,500 BP), small scatted populations; generalized h-g economy; similar seasonal settlement pattern to Early Archaic (base camps on levees and river terraces / transient upland hunting camps)

- key resources continue to be deer, small mammals, nuts


- L=Anse Amour, Labrador: evidence of sea mammal hunting and mound burial, 7,500 BP

- L=Anse Amour, key site in defining Maritime Archaic, which continues to c. 3,000 BP

- but use of coastal resources seems minimal farther south

- evidence of more permanent settlement in Middle Archaic -- increasing use of local raw materials

- warm, dry Hypsithermal may have been restricting groups to only highly favourable river valley locations

- later Middle Archaic (6,500-6,000 BP): important changes herald Late Archaic; building on trend to more permanent settlement...

1. appearance of larger, more permanent floodplain middens


2. reduced mobility, smaller territories

3. major increase in use of riverine aquatic resources -- fish, shellfish

4. optimal foraging practices, attainment of primary forest efficiency

5. appearance of bluff-top mounds

6. large scale burials in settlements and nearby cemeteries

7. increasing regional varibility in point styles

- all of above relate to Afixing@ of populations in smaller number of rich river valley territories

- other Middle Archaic technological changes: appearance of fully ground and polished stone tools (axes, bannerstones), notched pebbles (net sinkers?), increasing frequency of grinding stones, manos (plant processing)

 

Koster and Modoc Rock Shelter

- two famous and important midwestern Archaic sites; important for their long Archaic sequences, famous for modern ecological approach

- Koster has +10 m of deposit; layer 8C is Middle Archaic (c. 7,000 BP); evidence of large rectangular houses, post-and-beam construction

- evidence of optimal foraging seen in presence of fish, shellfish, deer, but little use of nuts and grasses -- narrow range of resources

- at Modoc, similar pattern seen in Middle Archaic; use of fish, shellfish, crayfish, various small mammals, hickory nuts

- Modoc, a base camp during Middel Archaic because of rising importance of aquatic resources

 

 

         Late Archaic

 

- climax of primary forest efficiency; sharp increase in population (seen in site size and site density); improving climate leading to expansion of aquatic habitats

- key cultural developments...

1. greater social complexity; elaborate mortuary customs


2. long distance trade in exotics (copper shell, cherts, etc.)

3. greater sedentism, permanent villages

4. storage (pits and containers)

5. introduction of ceramics

6. small garden cultivation of indigenous wild plants (sunflower, marsh elder, knotweed)

7. appearance of tropical cultigens (squashes, gourds)

8. construction of burial mounds and earthworks (limited regional extent)

 

 

         Eastern Agricultural Complex

 

- term introduced by R. Linton and G. Quimby, 1940s

- but it is really gardening (not agriculture), and plant Acomplex@ changes from region to region

- originally thought to have followed introduction of squash from Mexico


- now known to precede it -- ie., EAC facilitated arrival of Mexican domesticates

- indigenous N. American squash (Cucurbita pepo) likely domesticated by 4,500 BP

- soon followed by sunflower (Helianthus annuus), marsh elder (Iva sp.), and goosefoot (Chenopodium sp.)

- these four plants were genetically altered, and found well outside natural range

- other Acultivars@: maygrass, knotweed, little barley, ragweed -- cultivated but not truly domesticated

- most EAC plants thrive in open disturbed habitats, like river levees -- occupied by humans since Early Archaic

- all had edible seeds, either oily (sunflower, marsh elder) or starchy (goosefoot, maygrass, knotweed, little barley)

- EAC mainly restricted to Midwest and mid-south (not found along Gulf Coast)

- knowledge of EAC advanced in recent years by improved excavation techniques, especially flotation

 

 

         Late Archaic Regional Variability

 

- possible to identify several regional Late Archaic variants or traditions

- this due to several related factors: improved climate, population growth, increased sedentism and territoriality

 

 


         Central Riverine Archaic

 

- most successful and most socially complex of Late Archaic traditions

- combines several cultures in Cumberland, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys

- stylistically distinct, but share same adaptive pattern -- exploitation of interior river valley floodplains and bordering forests

- diverse technology (esp. bone and antler tools), exotic grave goods, extensive trade, restricted settlement mobility

- Green River culture (Kentucky), known for +45 large, dense shell middens (sometimes called Shell Midden Archaic)

- in addition to shellfish, GRC people hunted deer and other small mammals, fished, collected hickory nuts, participated in EAC


- apparently egalitarian, but traded widely for marine shells (conch) and Lake Superior copper

 

Indian Knoll

- most famous Green River culture site

- excavated by C.B. Moore 1916, and W.S. Webb 1930s

- elliptical mound, 137 x 67 m, 2.5 m deep

- +1,000 burials, many with offerings -- conch shells, shell beads, bannerstones, turtle shell rattles, copper -- but still egalitarian

- Cucurbita rind evidence of early EAC

 

 

         Lake Forest Archaic

 

- term refers to both culture area and biotic area; the two fit well if not perfectly

- biotic area (maple-beech-hemlock biome) includes much of lower Great Lakes -- basically transitional between boreal forest and broad-leaf Carolinean forest; mix of both

- two main LFA cultures are: Laurentian in the east (Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence), and Old Copper in the west (Wisconsin, Michigan)


- diagnostic artifacts: broad-bladed, side-notched points (Otter Creek), stemmed ground slate points, tanged points and harpoons (bone and antler in Laurentian; copper in Old Copper)

- fishing and hunting were main subsistence pursuits; plant gathering less important than in Mast Forest -- grinding tools uncommon

- watercraft likely included dugout and bark canoes

 

 

         Mast Forest Archaic

 

- like LFA, refers more to adaptation to a biome (oak-deer-maple) than to any single culture

- similar to Central Riverine Archaic, but without large river shell middens -- Atlantic coastal shell middens do exist

- key resources: deer, turkey, nuts, EAC crops


- fresh water aquatic resources perhaps less important than in CRA and LFA; but marine reosurces important, as in Maritime Archaic

- artifact diagnostics: narrow-bladed points (chipped and ground), narrow stemmed points

- large winter village sites, limited territories; segregation by river drainages in some cases, as seen in limited distribution of raw materials

 

Lamoka Lake site

- type site of the Lamoka culture, southwestern NY, northern Penn.

- excavated by Wm. Ritchie, 1925, 1958, 1962

- diagnostic artifacts: narrow, stemmed Lamoka points, beveled adzes, grinding tools

- fauna: whiter-tailed deer, turtles, bullheads

- flora: acorns, hickory

- dated 5,300-5,000 BP, too early for EAC

- 14 complete burials (portions of 34 others); evidence of cannibalism and violent death

- numerous hearths, pits, postmolds interpreted as house remains; at least 10, rectangular, 4 m on a side

 

 


         Shield Culture

 

- formerly AShield Archaic@; rather poorly known, even though it persists from 9,000 BP to contact, and covers 4.6 million km2

- occasional evidence of long distance trade (chalcedony, copper), but not nearly as elaborate as southern forest adaptations

- susbsistence probably strongly based on mammals (esp. caribou, moose) and fishing, but faunal preservation very poor

- may represent classic example of small, mobile, foraging bands -- little changed in 9,000 years

 

 

         Poverty Point Culture

 

- a case for CHG in the Deep South (lower Mississippi Valley); culture peaked c. 3,000 BP, disappeared c. 2600 BP


- distinguishing features: high frequency of non-local lithics and other exotics (copper, steatite, many others); APoverty Point objects@ (baked clay balls), lapidary objects

- most of this material concentrated in few very large sites -- Poverty Point site, Jaketown, Claiborne

- these sites and few others have impressive earth mounds and earthworks

- Poverty Point site, on Bayou Macon River, has several large mounds (Mound A, 25 m high, c. 200 x 200 m at base -- bird effigy?)

- 6 concentric, semi-elliptical ridges, 1200 m dia, enclosing 14 ha plaza

- these earthworks reflect settlement hierarchy; central places(?) with public architecture

- required huge labour organization -- probably drawn from smaller surrounding settlements


- subsistence: poorly known because of preservation problems -- probably deer, fish, nuts were staples

- some evidence of squash cultivation, but no EAC seedy species

 

- two theories...

1. CHG: Poverty Point represents oldest North American chiefdom (J.L. Gibson)

- but why here? and why at this time?

2. Trade and Ritual: large earthworks sites were trade centres, at which large groups would gather seasonally -- egalitarian with situational leadership (H. E. Jackson)

 

 

Course Syllabus

Lecture Notes

Related Links

 

Home