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Archaic Southeast United States

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William Marquardt
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Oyster reefs in Southwest Florida (USA) have been integral to estuarine ecology throughout the Holocene. Though Crassostrea virginica has never been commercially harvested, aboriginal people used the oyster substantially, accumulating middens between 5000 BC and AD 1700. A conservation paleobiological/ historical ecological study of oysters from middens and modern reefs within Estero Bay (EB) and Pine Island Sound (PIS) determined if oyster productivity changed due to aboriginal overharvesting. Archaeological samples came from sites including the Late Archaic (LA, 2000–500 BC) of PIS and the Caloosahatchee (Cal, 500 BC–AD 1500) of EB and PIS. These samples were compared with natural oyster death assemblages from neighboring modern reefs. Methods comprised measuring oyster convex valve lengths and sectioning shells to count ligament pit growth lines that served as proxy for growth rate. The biologic taphonomic grade was also compared after scoring the interior valve surface; biologic grade is near pristine for oysters collected live for consumption. Archaeological samples exhibit significantly better taphonomic grades when compared to modern assemblages, confirming the hypothesis that oysters were harvested for food. Valve length decreased significantly from LA to Cal time, whereas modern assemblages were indistinguishable from LA collections. Because the Cal samples span 4 climatic intervals, the results suggest that climate change was not responsible for shifts in productivity. Results support the hypothesis of overharvesting during Cal times. They also suggest that modern oysters retain the capacity for growth, and indicate that aboriginal activity did not result in a permanent microevolutionary shift. The results are also relevant for the ongoing discussion surrounding the creation of an Anthropocene Epoch; the shell middens built throughout history greatly influenced both estuarine ecology and landscapes through fishing and engineering practices.
Matthew Sanger
added 2 research items
The Late Archaic of the American Southeast is typically described as a time of population growth, innovative developments in subsistence strategies, and increased social complexity. Although it is difficult to generalize, many Early Woodland communities are characterized as relatively small scale, fairly mobile foragers organized into unranked or minimally ranked lineages and clans. Early Woodland groups also seem to be more socially isolated than their Late Archaic predecessors, with a decline in regional exchange networks. The papers in this volume were presented at a conference entitled "What Happened in the Late Archaic?" which was co-sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and the St. Catherines Island Foundation and held on St. Catherines Island (Georgia), May 9-11, 2008. The Third Caldwell Conference invited the participants to engage the appropriate archaeological data from the American Southeast, specifically addressing the nature of change during the Late Archaic-Early Woodland transition.This volume consists of a dozen substantive papers, followed by three discussant contributions.
Matthew Sanger
added a research item
Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America: An Interpretive Guide. Claassen Cheryl . 2015. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, xiv + 385 pp. $59.95 (cloth). ISBN 978-0-8173-1854-3. - Volume 81 Issue 1 - Matthew Sanger