THE LATE WOODLAND PERIOD IN THE EASTERN WOODLANDS

 

         Late Woodland

 

- thought by many to represent cultural decline following MW Hopewell and HIS -- decline in long distance trade, burial ceremonialism, cultural complexity

- dating varies depending on defintion of LW: 1,800 BP in SE and southern Midwest, based on change from Illinois-Hopewell ceramics; 1,000 BP in NE based on introduction of corn and formation of large, nucleated villages

- note that in SE and Midwest, introduction of corn marks end of Late Woodland, while in NE, corn marks beginning of Late Woodland

- why the LW decline?

1. onset of colder climate, c. 1,600 BP -- reduction of natural resources


2. growing reliance on cultivation (EAC, corn) reduced subsistence differences among regions; reduced incentive to trade

 

 

         Weeden Island Culture

 

- LW culture of Gulf Coastal Plain, 1,700-800 BP

- identified by ceramic change from stamped designs to incised and punctate decorations; also introduction of Weeden Island mortuary pottery, shaped in animal, human, composite forms

- mortuary ceremonialism continues -- burial of elites in mounds, with offerings of mortuary vessels

- other Aplatform@ mounds had charnel houses on top to prepare remains of deceased

- subsistence based largely on marine resources (fish, shellfish), supplemented by deer, nuts, limited cultivation

 

McKeithen Site

- large Weeden Island Aring@ village (horseshoe ring of midden debris enclosing central plaza), occupied 1,800-1,200 BP

- within plaza, three mounds, forming isosceles triangle

- one mound supported residence of leader / religious specialist; charnel house on another; third mound used for secondary burials

- mound residence of leader, a precursor of Mississippian pattern

- G. Milanich argues earthworks and burial ceremonialism at McKeithen suggest ABig Man@ organization; which declined after 1,500 BP

 

 

MISSISSIPPIAN COMPLEXITY

 

         Mississippian Culture

 

- probably evolved out of SE and southern Midwestern LW cultures, like Weeden Island, Troyville, c. 950 BP, continuing into historic period

- most easily identified with time period, not with uniform culture -- several cultures participated in Miss to greater or lesser extent, through spatial proximity and interaction

- growth of Miss usually attributed to population growth in SE and Midwest; and to economic stability brought on by arrival of corn, in particular, high yield, floodplain farming of corn

- some key (but not universal features)...

1. platform mound architecture, some with residences on top


2. chiefdom level of political complexity

3. dependence on maize agriculture

4. complex of exotic artifacts associated with shared religious ideas (Southern Cult, or Southeastern Ceremonial Complex -- SECC)

5. warfare

6. shell-tempered pottery

- Miss divided into regional variants, based on ecological differences and differences in ceramic style: Middle Miss, South Appalachian Miss (Piedmont), Plaquemine Miss, Caddoan Miss; and AUpper Miss@ variants: Oneota, Fort Ancient

- Miss may be best seen as period in which some southern cultures rose to high level of complexity (complex chiefdom) and often fell

 


Cahokia

- largest site in North America (13 km2), contains largest single structure -- Monks Mound

- located east of St. Louis, in broad, alluvial floodplain of Mississippi River, called American Bottom (a Afertile crescent@, 60 km long by 16-18 km wide)

- Cahokia chiefdom, 1,000-600 BP, incorporated many nearby communities, covering all of American Bottom and surrounding uplands -- largest regional polity north of Mexico

- a three-tier polity: 1. Cahokia (capital), 2. Mitchell, Pulcher and other sites (secondary administrative centres with mounds), 3. Rural hamlets, farmsteads

- +100 mounds (burial and platform), and large residential areas -- population estimated at 16,000, 12th C. AD

- palisade around core area of site (large plaza defined by Monks Mound and several other mounds) may have physically separated elites from commoners -- evidence of social classes

- other evidence of elites: mortuary, and large residences on platform mounds

- construction of mounds, palisades, woodhenges probably achieved through commoner tribute labour

- Cahokia decline, several centuries before Spanish contact, poorly understood

 

 

         Other Mississippian Centres

 

- no other Miss centre equalled Cahokia, but some approached it

- Moundville, on Black Warrior River, central Alabama, occupied 950-400 BP; most intensive occupation, 750-550 BP -- flourished a little later than Cahokia

- 26 mounds of varying size, symmetrically arranged, enclose large plaza

- +3,000 burials reveal sharp distinction between elites and commoners in terms of offerings

- food and labour provided as tribute from surrounding population, estimated at 10,000

- nobility controlled trade in luxury goods (copper, mica, galena, marine shell, SECC)


- Spiro, eastern Oklahoma, 950-550 BP; largest Caddoan Miss civic-ceremonial centre

- site consists of two sections: 10 ha residential area on Arkansas River terrace, and 20 ha upland mound enclosure

- during late phase occupation, 700-550 BP, large mound added to residential area, thought to be ancestral shrine to regional elite, contained large assemblage of SECC items

- Etowah, bottomland mound complex in NW Georgia; flourished as capital of large chiefdom, 900-650 BP (despite brief abandonment of site, 800-750 BP)

- public architecture includes six mounds and defensive ditch with palisade and bastions

- Mound C yielded large assemblage of SECC items

- Moundville, Spiro, and Etowah all smaller than Cahokia -- but each was capital of large, tribute-based, complex chiefdom, with three-tier settlement system

 

 

         Mississippian Subsistence

 

- all four sites located in prime bottomland or river terrace locations for farming -- Miss cultures made more intensive use of bottomlands than any Woodland culture

- bottomlands are wide, flat valleys with slow, meandering rivers, natural levees, and oxbow lakes

- extremely rich, diversified habitat for both terrestrial and aquatic resources -- estimated 50% of Miss protein came from fish, shellfish, waterfowl (major migratory route)

- earliest maize in Eastern Woodlands dated to +2,000 BP; small-cob, 12-14 row hardy flint maize -- North American pop -- probably introduced from eastern Plains via SW

- 8-row Maiz de Ocho introduced later; became staple under intensive cultivation, beginning c. 1,250 BP

- beans introduced c. 1,000 BP, but not commonly used until 800 BP

- combination of productive bottomland h&g (nuts, waterfowl, fish) and agriculture (corn, squash, beans) allowed Miss cultures to reduce subsistence risk and produce large surpluses for storage

- elites may have emerged to manage surpluses and maintain trade relations in case of long term drought -- elites as resource managers model

 

 


         Southeastern Ceremonial Complex

 

- defined on basis of great similarity in exotic items and imagery seen in elite grave offerings from distantly separated Moundville, Spiro, Etowah

- a set of ritual paraphernalia, associated symbols and related iconography found in elite contexts in major Miss centres

- of many iconic themes, two most prominent are warrior (sometimes decapitated) and birdman (anthropomorphized hawk) -- both associated with warfare and chiefly power, thought to have symbolized and reinforced power of chiefs

 

 

LATE WOODLAND IN THE GREAT LAKES:

IROQUOIANS

 

         Princess Point

 

- limited distribution on south-central Ontario, with focus in Grand River valley

- considered a MW culture by D. Smith, Early Iroquoian by J.V. Wright

- dated 1,500-1,000 BP, overlaps with late Point Peninsula, and is probably evolved from it

- could be considered transitional to LW because of presence of maize dated to beginning of culture

- other material diagnostics: globular, paddle-manufactured pottery with cord-wrapped stick decorations, Levanna points, chipped stone tools predominant


- settlement pattern: main habitation sites near major water sources -- rivers, lakes, marshes

- settlements often on lower river terraces or floodplains

- some settlements may have been permanent (eg., Grand Banks), but probably not formal villages -- transitional between MW and LW

- subsistence: although maize present from the beginning, not really important until near the end, c. 1,100-900 BP

- h&g still predominated -- fish, waterfowl, nuts; also, deer, small mammals, fleshy fruits, greens

- social organization: egalitarian, probably bands (like MW)

- but with slow but steady increase in use of corn, macrobands may have stayed together longer, leading to incipient tribal formation(?)

 

 

         Early Iroquoian:

Glen Meyer, Pickering, Owasco

 

- three Early Iroquoian (EI) cultures, dated 1,100-750 BP; Glen Meyer and Pickering in S. Ontario, Owasco in upstate N.Y.

- Glen Meyer, in SW Ontario, probably evolved from Princess Point

- Pickering, in S and SE Ontario, and Owasco probably evolved from Point Peninsula(?)

- mixed farming-foraging economy, with steadily growing importance of corn, beans, squash, sunflower

- settlements: true villages, up to 3 ha, located on well-drained sandy soils, above floodplains for farming

- many villages palisaded by late EI; prevalence of warfare increasing with sedentism and farming

 

Porteous

- early Glen Meyer village on Grand River, dated 1050-950 BP

- small (0.1 ha) double-lined palisaded village, 5 Alonghouses@ (avg 10 m)

- two houses with void compartments (maize storage?)

- earliest evidence of intensive maize farming in Ontario

 

 

         Ontario Iroquois Tradition

 

- J.V. Wright coined OIT; divided into three periods: Early (AD 900-1275), Middle (1275-1400), and Late (1400-1650)

- Northern Iroquoians migrated into lower Great Lakes / St. Lawrence area from south -- surrounded on east, north and west by Algonkian-speakers

- timing of migration is debated -- may coincide with arrival of maize in Ontario, early Princess Point, 1500 BP

- EI characterized by establishment of villages (small) and slow transition to farming

- Middle Iroquois sees major village changes, as groups become heavily dependent on maize

- population aggregation, due to warfare(?), results in very large villages (eg. Draper, 3000 people), 2-8 ha, with longhouses +50 m

- villages often occupied for short periods, due to exhaustion of soils and firewood supplies

- social organization: tribal (clans, lineages), matrilineal (importance of horticulture) in longhouses

 

 

         New York Iroquois

 

- under pressure of endemic warfare (with cannibalism), LI tribes in N.Y. formed loose confederacy to reduce conflict, after AD 1400

- League of the Iroquois included Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk

- this alliance led to incrase in social complexity (council of chiefs, peace chiefs, war chiefs)

- also led to dispersal of non-league tribes...

- Susquehannock moved south into Penn.

- Huron moved north toward present Huronia

- Wenro and St. Lawrence Iroquois disappeared

- League continued strong well into historic period, controling trade with Europeans

 

 

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