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St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Florida’s Connection to Cahokia


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No area along the far edges of the Mississippian world is as remote from Cahokia as northeastern Florida. But objects of possible Cahokian derivation, though limited in number, made their way to this distant locale The most compelling material evidence in Florida for any kind of connection to Cahokia comes from the Mill Cove Complex and Mt. Royal along the St. Johns River of the northern peninsula. Situated about 100 km from one another, these two fisher-hunter-gatherer communities were recipients of copper and stone artifacts that likely originated in the American Bottom, some 1200 km away. The overall geographical distribution of Cahokian styles and artifacts enmeshed varied internal and external processes and flows that encompassed exploration, migration, diaspora, trade, and politics. While no evidence exists for a Cahokian outpost or diaspora as far south as Florida, the presence of American Bottom artifacts along the St. Johns River could have involved more than the stock answer of simple down-the-line-exchange. This essay explores issues of long-distance travel, direct contact, knowledge seeking, object biographies, and diplomacy among peoples from these geographically disparate locales.
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St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas
Connection to Cahokia
Keith Ashley
&Robert L. Thunen
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020
No area along the far edges of the Mississippian world is as remote from Cahokia as
northeastern Florida. But objects of possible Cahokian derivation, though limited in
number, made their way to this distant locale The most compelling material evidence in
Florida for any kind of connection to Cahokia comes from the Mill Cove Complex and
Mt. Royal along the St. Johns River of the northern peninsula. Situated about 100 km
from one another, these two fisher-hunter-gatherer communities were recipients of
copper and stone artifacts that likely originated in the American Bottom, some
1200 km away. The overall geographical distribution of Cahokian styles and artifacts
enmeshed varied internal and external processes and flows that encompassed explora-
tion, migration, diaspora, trade, and politics. While no evidence exists for a Cahokian
outpost or diaspora as far south as Florida, the presence of American Bottom artifacts
along the St. Johns River could have involved more than the stock answer of simple
down-the-line-exchange. This essay explores issues of long-distance travel, direct
contact, knowledge seeking, object biographies, and diplomacy among peoples from
these geographically disparate locales.
Keywords Cahokia .Long-distance interactions .Knowledge seeking .Mississippian .
Exotic objects
The question we pose is simple: how did fisher-hunter-gatherers along the St. Johns
River, Florida come to possess rare exotic items of the Early Mississippian world,
specifically those that came from the American Bottom and likely manufactured at
Cahokia, some 1200 km away? An unequivocal answer is not so simple, owing to
problems of equifinalitythat currently attend any interpretation of the spatial distri-
bution of these artifacts (Blitz 2010:20; Pauketat 2004:119). Taking a broad-scale
Journal of Archaeological Method and Theo ry
*Keith Ashley
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, University of North Florida, 1 UNF
Drive, Jacksonville, Florida 32224, USA
perspective, we depart from a typical down-the-line trade model for the movement of
exotic materials to propose an alternative interpretation that considers long-distance
journeys, knowledge seeking, diplomacy, object biographies, and direct contact be-
tween Cahokians and peoples of northeastern Florida. In this essay, we do not speak
directly to the notion of a Cahokian diaspora but rather address the nature of possible
social relations between Cahokians and groups living on the extreme southeastern
periphery of the Early Mississippian world (Fig. 1). Portable objects of probable
Cahokian origin recovered from the Mill Cove Complex and Mt. Royal along the St.
Johns River, Florida point to social interactions between these geographically disparate
regions of eastern North America during Cahokiasfoundingcentury(ca. A.D. 1050
1150). The exceedingly rare, prized-quality, and isolated occurrence of Cahokian-
derived artifacts in northeastern Florida suggest attainment through direct encounters.
Distance should not prevent us from considering face-to-face relations between
Cahokians and Floridians, particularly in light of early sixteenth-century Spanish
accounts that reference long-distance travels by certain Mississippians traders and
guides (Ethridge 2017).
Long-distance Journeys and the Power of Objects
People, objects, ideas, and practices move across the landscape in myriad ways.
Diaspora, migration, intermarriage, and exchange are but a few of the important
mechanisms that account for a societys broader fields of connectivity. The outward
geographical expansion of Cahokian influence involved all these processes, as possible
emigrants, dissidents, traders, spirit guides, and community functionaries navigated
new frontiers and negotiated diverse relations with allies, enemies, and strangers in
varied domestic and ritual contexts (Emerson and Lewis 1991; Green 1997; Pauketat
2004:119144; Wilson et al. 2017). Attending these movements across space were
distinctive physical objects (or knowledge of how to make those objects), some perhaps
originally intended to communicate active affiliation or some sort of social, political, or
religious connection to Cahokia. Those materials and objects, crafted in the American
Bottom, underwent their own metaphorical diaspora as they traveled far afield creating
webs of social, geographical, and temporal relationships, yet in the process maintained
a genealogical connection to Cahokia.
The most evident material markers of Cahokian interaction consist of a series of
well-crafted items possibly made at Cahokia that minimally include copper Long-
Nosed God maskettes (earpieces), Ramey Incised pots, and flintclay figurines; the list
further could be expanded to include Cahokia style arrowheads and chunkey stones
(Pauketat 2004:121). Cahokias expansive reach is materialized in the broad geograph-
ical dissemination of these pieces of Cahokia across portions of midwestern and
southeastern North America (Fig. 2). Most of these symbolically charged tokens occur
on sites that collectively span nearly the entire Mississippi River and some tributaries,
although a few occur far from the American Bottom along the St. Johns River, Florida.
Our take on Cahokias increased connectivity with significantly distant peoples and
lands is informed by Mary Helmss(1988,1992) outstanding comparative work on the
political and cosmological dimensions of geographical distance, based on widespread
ethnographic and ethnohistoric evidence.
Ashley and Thunen
The physical world is culturally framed, as groups assign meaning and identity to its
layout, features, juxtapositions, and forces. A common distinction contrasts the chaotic,
outside world with the normal, everyday ordered world of home and shared commu-
nity, although specificity and geographic details vary among cultures (Helms 1988:22,
114). Foreign places exist beyond the boundaries of home, inhabited by others whose
lives differ greatly from that of the homeland. Helms (1988:4) argues that often in
traditional societies geographical distance is equated with spiritual distance, meaning
horizontal space and physical distance can be cast in cosmologically or supernaturally
referenced terms. In effect, cosmology is imprinted on the physical landscape such that
with increased geographical distance comes heightened cosmological, sacred, and
supernatural connotations (Helms 1988:114). Faraway places, and the people and
things from those places, are thus bestowed with significant symbolic meaning.
Geographies are not static, however, and spatial distance can be collapsed through
Fig. 1 Select Early Mississippian sites
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
cosmological understandings and social, political, and economic connections that
extend into remote lands.
Motivations for venturing into the great beyond are wide-ranging, and journeys were
undertaken for individual, social, religious, or political purposes (Helms 1988:6667).
Moreover, a single trip may serve multiple aims. Realization of mystical knowledge or
power is a common general objective, and political, ideological, and cognitive reasons
typically assume priority over purely economic interests such as trade. Geographically
distant and virtually inaccessible lands are often preferred destinations of knowledge
seekers, who draw connections to foreign places as a means of directly experiencing
complex and layered cosmic realms. The demonstrated ability to encounter first-hand
and develop an understanding of the extraordinary wonders and forces of the universe
often grants long-distance travelers social reverence, ideological power, and privileged
status. From the moment they depart until their successful return from a long-distance
Fig. 2 Distribution of possible Cahokia-derived artifacts (adapted from Pauketat 2004:Fig. 6.1)
Ashley and Thunen
journey, some travelers may undergo a liminal or middle passageexperience similar
to that of trance-induced shamans, during which time they must endure physical,
psychological, and spiritual challenges of an unfamiliar world (Helms 1988:81).
Raw materials and finished products obtained from afar assume the inalienable
qualities bestowed onto distant places associated with other cosmic realms, often
operating as tangible manifestations of intangible esoteric knowledge and powers.
Measures affecting an objects degree of potency include source, difficulty of acquisi-
tion, rarity, and unique physical attributes (Helms 1988:114). Because of their sacred-
ness, exotic materials tend to be reserved for use in exceptional tasks or by elite
individuals or specialists. In traditional societies, objects originating from faraway
and traveling a great distance tend to be portable and durable as well as high in value
and low in bulk,due to difficulties of transport (Helms 1988:118). Thus, it should
come as no surprise that one of the most frequently exchanged types of long-distance
goods is esoteric knowledge(Helms 1988:118).
For Helms (1988:99), these distant raw materials are marked by the inalienable
qualities associated with their unusual places or sources of origin.The tangibility of
raw materials is what Bradley (2000:88) refers to as pieces of place, each of which
carries a citation of the place with itself. This concept further can be extended to an
objects production and movement, as it gathers more citations through time. As an
object moves across the physical landscape, it interacts with various peoples and
becomes entangled in social relationships, taking on a personhood of its own (Thomas
1999:7273). In effect, things have social lives and develop histories or biographies
during their life cycle (Kopytoff 1986). These object biographies encompass an
amalgam of different people, places, and social relationships.
While Helms work largely ignores the role of agency and biography in the lives of
these powerful objects, recent studies of materiality emphasize the reciprocally consti-
tutive relationships between people and things. While people manufacture objects,
objects also help create people as social beings by engendering relationships that shape
peoples thoughts, actions, experiences, and memories (Meskell 2004;Miller2005).
The Mississippian archaeological record highlights a complex and far-reaching inter-
connectivity among myriad peoples and places, as certain raw materials and objects
traveled great distances. During their itineraries, these circulating items articulated
between and across divergent cultural territories, practices, and histories, where they
reinforced, mediated, and altered social relationships and assumed a form of social
existence (Lazzari 2005:129). By embodying these social, spatial, and temporal rela-
tions, such objects hold the capacity to create and reinforce social memories by
referencing their past makers and users through citational fields (Jones 2001:339).
In eastern North America, certain raw materials such as copper, mica, galena, and
quartz filtered through indigenous awareness were perceived as bits and pieces of the
cosmos, simultaneously representing heaven and earth (Bloch 2018:789; Pauketat
2013:165166). As these fragments of land or earthly apparitionsof celestial bodies
changed hands and moved across the landscape through various interaction networks,
so did the supernatural powers and animating properties kept within them (Bloch
2018:789; Pauketat 2013; Zedeño 2008). Fundamental to North American Indian
ontologies is the capacity for certain things to have power and agency, enabling them
to animate or otherwise modify surrounding people and things by virtue of their
biography(Zedeño 2008:375).
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
Starting with Cahokia
The human experience is multiscalar, and in the pre-Columbian Southeast, this is
exemplified during the Mississippian period (A.D. 10001500), as webs of social
interaction intertwined to link faraway peoples and places separated by as much as
1600 km (e.g., Brown et al. 1990). Such long-distance connections, however, were not
restricted to the five centuries prior to the European invasion, as evidenced by Late
Archaic (30001000 B.C.) and Middle Woodland Hopewell (A.D. 100500) spheres of
interaction (Cobb 1991:205209; Johnson 1994:100). In addition, narrative descrip-
tions and Indian-authored maps of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reveal
intricate indigenous knowledge of peoples, trails, and events over vast expanses of
North America (Ethridge 2017; Lafferty 1994:179; Peregrine and Lekson 2012:6465;
Wase l kov 1989). With this said, Cahokia was not needed for the existence of far-flung
interaction networks, but the actual trajectory that southeastern pre-Columbian history
followed after the eleventh century would have differed greatly had Cahokia never
emerged when and where it did.
A new social and political order materialized rapidly at Cahokia during the mid-
eleventh century, as a scattering of villages transformed into something urban and
cosmopolitan (Alt 2010; Kelly and Brown 2014:Pauketat2004,2009). At its peak, the
Greater Cahokia area consisted of three major mound centersCahokia, East St. Louis,
and St. Louisthat collectively straddled the Missouri and Illinois sides of the
Mississippi River near modern-day St. Louis. Cahokia reached its zenith within
100 years of its founding but was nothing more than a fading memory by the mid-
fourteenth century. The Cahokian phenomenon was a complex set of historically
contingent processes of culture making, social transformation, and community diver-
sification associated with new technological innovations, population influxes, trade,
agriculturally based ideologies, and religion (Pauketat 2013). Although large-scale
immigrations characterized Cahokias early history, in time, some people moved away
in different directions and resettled at varying distances from the great civic centers (Alt
2002;Buchanan2020;Connawayetal.2020; Mehta and Connaway 2020; Pauketat
and Alt 2003). Some researchers suggest the establishment of Cahokia-inspired trade or
mission outposts well to the north in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota (e.g., Pauketat
2004:124142; Pauketat et al. 2015; Wilson et al. 2017). Cahokia simultaneously
propelled and attracted the movements of people, objects, and other non-human things.
Relocated communities of Cahokians, who maintained their distinctive cultural
identity in a foreign land, might constitute a diaspora (Baltus and Baires 2020;
Brubaker 2005:56). But what about a far-off location well beyond the limits of this
diaspora, such as northeastern Florida, which lacks a continuous waterway link to
Cahokia? Here, two settlements along the St. Johns River have yielded a handful of
presumed Cahokian artifacts of stone and copper, and their presence looks conspicu-
ously out of place on a modern distribution map depicting prized craft items referenced
as Cahokias calling cards (see Fig. 2)(Pauketat2004:122). Moreover, no evidence of a
migrant community, enclave, or even household with domestic artifacts or architectural
evidence pointing to any kind of distinguishing Cahokian identity has been recorded
within hundreds of kilometers of northeastern Florida. In fact, the closest Early
Mississippian (A.D. 10001200) mound center is Macon Plateau along the Ocmulgee
River in central Georgia. The Lake Jackson site, located to the west in the Florida
Ashley and Thunen
panhandle, did not burst onto the macroregional scene until the fourteenth century, as
Cahokias geographical influence waned (Jones 1982;Marrinan2012;Payne1994).
St. Johns Tradition of Florida (A.D. 9001250)
The St. Johns tradition of northeastern Florida is a sequence of regional cultures that
existed for two millennia prior to European arrival (Goggin 1952;Milanich1994). The
tradition achieved its broadest geographical extent during early Mississippian times (or
locally St. Johns II, AD 9001250), as it spanned the entire length of the St. Johns
River and adjacent Atlantic coast. For this period, domestic refuse indicates a subsis-
tence economy centered mostly on local wild resources, namely fish and shellfish.
Maize was not grown along the St. Johns at this time. Current settlement models
suggest multi-household communities, marked by extensive middens and an on-site
sand mound that served as a community cemetery. Three early St. Johns II earth-
worksGrant, Shields, and Mt. Royalstand out from all others along the river in
terms of sheer size, frequency of human burials, and amount and diversity of exotic
stone, mineral, and metal (Milanich 1994:269270; Moore 1894a,b,1895). Portable
objects of both geographic and temporal distances took on sacred value in St. Johns
life, as they were rendered imperative to St. Johns ritual and social reproduction
(Ashley and Rolland 2014). Participation in exchange networks enabled and fueled
contacts with nearby neighbors and distant mound centers and settlements of the Early
Mississippian world.
Two St. Johns sitesMill Cove Complex and Mt. Royalexhibit more material
evidence of engagement with Mississippians than any others in Florida during the tenth
through twelfth centuries, positioning them on the forefront of early Mississippian
interactions (see various chapters in Ashley and White 2012). In fact, mortuary and
ritual contexts at these two civic-ceremonial centers provide the only unequivocal
evidence of Florida connections to Cahokia (Ashley 2012:114). The Mill Cove Com-
plex, consisting of the Shields and Grant mounds, is now hypothesized to have been
established by a mix of locals and migrants from the south, who coalesced to erect the
two mortuary monuments (750 m apart) on relict dune bluffs near the river mouth
(Ashley 2020). Mt. Royal emerged organically 100 km upriver (south), immediately
north of Lake George. The political economy of these fisher-hunter-gatherers has been
characterized as communal, but one in which power and sacred knowledge differentials
existed between interest groups (Ashley 2002:168172; 2012:116124). No one leader
held absolute control over others, but periodic social gatherings and rituals hosted by
Mill Cove and Mt. Royal integrated local communities, attracted distant guests, and
reinforced the centersregional preeminence.
Social tensions, played out locally but influenced to some extent by the changing
geopolitical landscape of the greater Southeast, precipitated demographic changes
throughout the river valley by the late thirteenth century (Ashley 2012:12425). Mound
building ceased at Mt. Royal and Mill Cove, and the latter, at least, seems to have been
vacated by St. Johns peoples. The timing of these events is seemingly coincident with
the abandonment of Macon Plateau in Georgia and the decline of Cahokia. As a new
sociopolitical milieu emerged across the greater Southeast after A.D. 1300, the
Apalachicola-Chattahoochee river system of the Florida panhandle became the primary
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
conduit of communication through which people, materials, and information flowed
between Florida and major centers of the Mississippian world that now included
Moundville and Etowah. The Lake Jackson site in the Florida panhandle rose to
prominence at this time.
CahokianArtifacts at Mill Cove Complex and Mt. Royal
A detailed inventory of all the foreign material taken from the Mt. Royal, Grant, and
Shields mounds by C.B. Moore (1894a,1994b,1895) in the 1890s is beyond the scope
of this essay. Suffice it to say, he recovered a wide assortment of durable, nonlocal
materials that included pottery, mica, galena, copper, chert, quartz, greenstone, and
other igneous rocks. Shields yielded two spatulate celts and Mt. Royal produced three.
Only seven such polished stone celts are known for the entire state of Florida. Raw
materials and finished products made their way to the St. Johns River from multiple
sources at different times and likely through varying mechanisms of interaction, such as
exchange, marriage, and direct procurement, during the period A.D. 9001250.
Moores collection highlights a short, yet impressive, list of possible specimens from
Cahokia, or more broadly the American Bottom, some 1200 km from northeastern
Mt. Royal includes a tri-notched Cahokia point, whereas Grant Mound
yielded two iconic Long-Nosed God maskettes/earpieces (Fig. 3), a rare copper-
covered biconical earspool, and a stone biface
that resembles a Mill Creek spade-
type hoe (Elizabeth Watts, personal communication 2017) or perhaps a chisel of Kaolin
chert from Illinois (Charles Cobb, personal communication 2017). All three St. Johns
mounds produced small, embossed copper plates, totaling more than 30. Except for the
now-famous repousse copper plate with a forked-eye design, remarkably similar to one
from Spiro (Phillips and Brown 1978:206207), and another with depressed lenticular
motif from Mt. Royal (Moore 1894a:153, Fig. 14), most plates exhibit simple raised
dots and/or circular rings that lack the detail and iconography of later plates.
While not
a direct link, some of these distinctly hammered copper plates bear a strong stylistic
similarity to the Cummings-McCarthy headdress plate from the lower Illinois River
valley (Sampson and Esarey 1993:463, 468).
The only sourcing of copper from St. Johns River mounds was Goads(1978)
optical emission spectrographic study that included 10 artifacts recovered by C.B.
It has recently been argued that one of the mechanisms responsible for the presence of non-local Ocmulgee
Cordmarked pottery from south-central Georgia in St. Johns II contexts was intermarriage (Ashley et al. 2015).
Recognition of the similarities between Grant Mound and American Bottom artifacts is not an original
observation on our part. Kelly and Cole (1931) first mentioned it more than 80 years ago, and Williams and
Goggin (1956) restated it in the 1950s.
The tentative statements made on the origins of this artifact are based on viewing a stock photograph of the
object taken by the National Museum of the American Indian. No one cited as personal communication (or the
authors) has examined the artifact in person.
Plates of all sizes typically possess a small center hole, and a number of plates have a large circular
protuberance. Some sheets include beaded nodes in a circular pattern around the perforated center or beaded
nodes in linear lines extending from the embossed center to the four corners of the plate. Another decorative
form includes a continuous raised circle around a perforated center. A recurring comment made by Moore
(1894a,b,1895) with regard to his discovery of copper plates is that most were wrapped in either bark or
woven vegetal fibers.
Ashley and Thunen
Moore from Grant Mound and 13 from Mt. Royal. Materials sampled included sections
of copper plates, earspools, and rolled tubular beads. Trace element data indicated that
these 23 items derived from multiple ore deposits in both the Appalachian Mountains
and the Lake Superior region (primarily Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale). She
sourced seven to four ore clustersin the Great Lakes region and 15 to five ore
clustersin the Southeast. Specifically, eight Mt. Royal and seven Grant artifacts came
from Southeast U.S. geological sources, while five Mt. Royal and three Grant artifacts
came from deposits in the Great Lakes region (Goad 1978:136148). One Grant artifact
was linked to float copper from central and southern Wisconsin. Although this suggests
multiple sources for copper on north Florida sites, it reveals little about where the plates
were manufactured. From a broad-scale stylistic perspective, however, the uniqueness
of the plate designs along the St. Johns leaves opens the possibility that some were
produced locally from copper imported from different locales. Fragments of unmodi-
fied sheet copper could have been obtained at regional transaction centers to the north,
as suggested by Goad (1978), or through down-the-line networks.
The three burial mounds (Grant, Shields, and Mt. Royal) are not the only evidence
of consecrated acts of ritual and mortuary imprinted on the landscape of these two
civic-ceremonial centers. Situated in the shadow of the Shields Mound is Kinzeys
Knoll (Fig. 4). This ritual or special-event shell midden contains a staggering quantity
and unique variety of faunal materials suggestive of feasting, and an extraordinary
assortment of both seemingly domestic and ritual items that includes pottery, decorated
bone pins, shell beads, and fragments of greenstone, mica, quartz, hematite, and copper
(Ashley and Rolland 2014). Stone points consist of earlier curated or scavenged
Archaic forms, contemporaneous arrowheads (Pinellas), and two Cahokia side-
notched points (Fig. 5). In addition to evidence for the crafting of ritual artifacts, the
presence of scattered human bones and deep pits beneath the shell midden evokes the
processing of corpses whose disarticulated and bundled parts were eventually buried in
nearby Shields Mound. The Kinzeys Knoll shell midden was a form of living
architecturethat actively conveyed an ongoing history of ritual where ancestors were
created, and social relationships, identities, and memories were negotiated among the
living and non-living at Mill Cove (McNiven 2013:553).
Fig. 3 Long-Nosed God maskette/earpieces from Grant Mound (photograph courtesy of the National
Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Institution)
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
Another aspect of Mt. Royal and Shields Mound that is both intriguing and
speculative at this time is the possibility that Cahokia may have influenced to some
extent new visions of monumentality and site planning at the two St. Johns civic-
ceremonial centers. Mt. Royal and Shields each consisted of a set of parallel embank-
ments that formed an avenueconnecting a large mortuary mound to a pond hundreds
of meters away
(see Fig. 4; for a depiction of Mt. Royal, see Morgan 1999:213). These
two mounds are the only mortuary monuments in Florida that included a set of linear
earthworks leading directly to a distant pond. The coupling of mounded earth and water
carries strong cosmological implications. At both St. Johns sites, the pond is distant
from the community and situated on the side of the mound opposite the river, perhaps
Fig. 4 Lidar map showing (1) Kinzeys Knoll, (2) Shields burial mound, (3) Shields earthwork, (4) Shields
causeway, and (5) artificial pond (enlarged since Moores time)
According to Moore (1894a:18; 1895:454, 473), Grant also may have possessed earthen embankments
leading from the mound, but due to intensive plowing, they disappeared into the surrounding terrain a short
distance from the mound. No pond or lake, however, was in the path of the possible embankments at Grant.
Ashley and Thunen
representing a spiritual entrance or portal to the watery Under World anchored to Mill
Coves dead by an embankment-lined avenue. Because historic cultivation and devel-
opment have razed the earthen ridges at Mt. Royal and a large section of those at
Shields, we must rely on Moores descriptions until a geophysical survey of the areas
can be performed. Although the embankments at these St. Johns mounds differ from
Cahokias Rattlesnake Causeway in construction details (Baires 2014), each incorpo-
rated a raised linear earthwork and water features tied directly to a mounded burial
Dating St. Johns Contact with Cahokia
Ritual and domestic contexts at the Mill Cove Complex are dated radiometrically to
A.D. 9001250. As for the two Cahokia points, the two-sigma overlap of six calibrated
radiometric assays on oyster shells from Kinzeys Knoll date the midden to A.D. 1060
1130 (Ashley 2002:164). At present, a single AMS assay of A.D. 10101050 (1 sigma;
A.D. 9901160 2-sigma) is all we have for Mt. Royal. For the Long-Nosed God
maskettes, we currently must rely on cross dating in which consensus attributes their
production generally to early Mississippian times (Brown et al. 1990:264; Kelly 1991,
2012; Pauketat 2004 114115; Williams and Goggin 1956). Sampson and Esarey
(1993:463-64) also place the biconical earspools from Grant in the A.D. 10001200
Fig. 5 Two Cahokia side notched points from Kinzeys Knoll, Mill Cove Complex
As a reviewer pointed out, embankments are found at earlier Woodland period sites in Florida, such as
Crystal River, River Styx, and Fort Center. In fact, Goggin (1952:55) looked to south Florida as a source of
influence, noting that the paired ridges on the two St. Johns II sites bear resemblances to those of the Lake
Okeechobee area. Fort Center, located deep in the everglades of south Florida, is a ritual landscape that
consists of circular and linear earthworks, ditches, and a charnel pond and mound complex (Thompson and
Pluckhahn 2011). However, none of the lengthy embankments there directly link a burial mound and a pond.
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
timeframe. The previously mentioned Cummings-McCarthy plate from Illinois, with its
embossing that resembles the style found along the St. Johns, is assigned loosely to the
tenth century, although researchers admit that sufficient contextual datafrom Illinois
is lacking to precisely date it (Kelly 2012:300). Taken together, it appears that the St.
Johns-Cahokia connection dates to the Lohman and early Stirling phases of Cahokias
founding century (ca. A.D. 10501150).
Residents of Mill Cove and Mt. Royal were consumers of foreign goods and raw
materials that concluded their long travels and use lives in St. Johns mortuary or ritual
contexts (Ashley 2002,2012; Ashley and Rolland 2014). In the past, researchers
typically assumed that these exotic items made their way to northeastern Florida
through either down-the-line or direct trade between mound (nodal) centers, although
these two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive (Brown et al. 1990; Milanich
1994:269; Payne and Scarry 1998:4248). The outcome was a chain of various-sized
spatial links that eventually connected a place of artifact/raw material origin to its locus
of final deposition. As a result, there was no direct contact between peoples at the
opposite ends. In our case, Floridians and Cahokians never encountered one another;
there were always intermediaries. But as Carrs(2006) research on Middle Woodland
Hopewellian societies underscores, exotic items are obtained by a variety of means in
addition to exchange, such as vision/power questing, pilgrimage, journey to a place of
learning, and intermarriage. In effect, myriad social practices and actions at the
microscale are responsible for macroscale Mississippian distributions and
Distance should not be a precluding factor when considering direct relations be-
tween Cahokians and Floridians. Recent stable isotope studies have demonstrated that
throughout pre-Columbian times, individuals who spent their early years in locations
far from Florida were laid to rest in Florida mounds. For instance, along the middle St.
Johns River, two individuals (Burials 13 and 100/101) from the Middle Archaic Harris
Creek site were interpreted, based on oxygen isotopic values, as immigrants who
originated in nonlocal areas, perhaps as far north as Tennessee or northern Virginia
(Quinn et al. 2008:2354). To the west in north-central Florida, Burial S426 in Mound B
at McKeithen exhibited an oxygen isotope value suggesting she lived in a different
region of the Southeast before migrating to McKeithen (Turner et al. 2005:134). In fact,
this sole mound interment stood out for her foreign origin, distinctive diet, and
prominent burial status. Finally, Burial 12 from a Woodland-period Swift Creek mound
at Mayport, 8 km east of the Mill Cove Complex at the mouth of the St. Johns River,
exhibited a strontium isotope signature interpreted as Appalachian-likeby the re-
searchers, meaning, at the very least, this person did not live in Florida during his/her
formative years(Neill Wallis, personal communication 2017). Researchers now also
are beginning to entertain the possibility that distant Hopewellian peoples visited
Crystal River along Floridas Gulf coast during the Middle Woodland period
(Pluckhahn and Thompson 2018:97).
The extremely low-volume, high-quality, and remote location of Cahokian-derived
artifacts in northeastern Florida suggest acquisition through direct means (Ashley
Ashley and Thunen
2012:114; Ashley and Rolland 2014:275; Kelly 2012:309). Following this line of
reasoning, Pauketat (2004:121) poses the possibility that Cahokians may have left
calling cardsin distant locations they visited to extract exotic raw materials, trade,
missionize, or enact diplomacy (see Fig. 2). Among the preserved items proposed as
referents are Cahokia style arrowheads and Long-Nosed God maskettes, both of which
occur exclusively in St. Johns II contexts in Florida. Although not mentioned as a
calling card, the copper-foiled wooden biconical earspools are rare and only known for
the Powell Mound (Mound 86) along the western edge of Cahokia, the nearby Booker
T. Washington site in the American Bottom, and Spiro in Oklahoma (Brown 1976:297
299; Sampson and Esarey 1993:458). None of these items has been documented for
sites in the adjacent state of Georgia, and only a single maskette of shell has been
recovered in far northwestern Alabama, some 900 km from northeastern Florida.
Long-Nosed God maskettes or ear ornaments, made of copper, shell, or bone, are
known for 20 sites in North America (Kelly 1991:7374; Williams and Goggin 1956).
Of the 15 known copper specimens, complete pairs come from seven sites. The
geographical distribution of these sites is interesting, with two originating from the
American Bottom and the others coming from five sites positioned on the margins of
the Mississippian world (Fig. 6): at Aztalan in Wisconsin to the north, Spiro and Harlan
to the west, Gahagan to the south, and Grant Mound to the southeast. Although the only
pair from the Greater Cahokia area hails from the St. Louis Mound groups, its location
in relation to the other sites suggests Greater Cahokia was the production center (Hall
1997:153; Pauketat 2009:145; Sampson and Esarey 1993:473). That these prized items
occur only at sites situated a great distance from their presumed place of origin speaks
to their intended use in long-distance interactions. Certain early Cahokians appear to
have left their home at the center of the world and embarked on journeys to the ends of
the earth, perhaps to explore, seek knowledge, build alliances, obtain powerful objects,
spread the word of Cahokia, or any combinations thereof.
The St. Johns River (Florida) is significantly distant from Cahokia, and unlike most
sites outside the American Bottom with distinctive Cahokia-made artifacts, the area is
not accessible by canoe travel alone; such a trip would have required portaging via land
trails through portions of the Georgia-Alabama-Tennessee border region. Little
(1987:66) estimates that a round trip journey from Cahokia to northeastern Florida
would have taken about 118 days. The Atlantic coast would have been far less
accessible and much more difficult to reach than the Gulf of Mexico, which is directly
linked to Cahokia via the Mississippi River. Such an arduous undertaking to the
Atlantic Ocean likely required great fortitude to navigate a physically, socially, and
linguistically challenging trek through foreign territories also marked with perceived
supernatural perils associated with geographically distant and unknown lands. Over-
coming these many obstacles would have been a tremendous show of ability, greatly
enhancing ones home reputation. Ethnographically, those successfully returning from
long-distance sojourns are awarded varying degrees of ritual grace, social respect, and
political prestige (Helms 1988:56). Cahokian elites would have possessed the resources
and incentives to enact such connections over vast distances. Visiting different Missis-
sippian mound centers along a route from Cahokia to the sea may have presented a
traveler with a network of contacts to boast of, upon a triumphant arrival back home.
Esoteric knowledge, life experience, and exotic materials would have been gained by
journeying to the revered Atlantic Ocean.
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
Macon Plateau is the only primary Early Mississippian civic-ceremonial center with
direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. Located in central Georgia, this multi-mound
settlement has long been considered an archaeological anomaly, leading some to
consider it a community founded by Mississippian migrants (Williams 1994) and
others to propose perhaps its pioneers were even Cahokian immigrants(Cobb and
King 2015:124). A canoe trip of only a few days would have taken visitors from Macon
Plateau to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Ocmulgee and Altamaha rivers. A would-
be priest, shaman, long-distance specialist, or prospective leader may have undertaken
the long journey to the ocean as a vision quest in preparation for his/her life calling (see
Pauketat 2009:90 for a similar scenario for north of Cahokia). A direct encounter with
the expansive salt waters would have evoked a range of sensory and emotional
experiences, as they walked the sandy, shell-strewn beaches to the sound of crashing
waves. Moreover, at differing times, they would have been eyewitnesses to the gradual
Fig. 6 Distribution of pairs of Long-Nosed God Masks in copper
Ashley and Thunen
emergence of the sun and moon out of the endless waters. An Atlantic coast sunrise
presents a different panorama than that of the Gulf of Mexico, rendering it a unique
ocean experience at the literal eastern edge of This World. One would expect an
extended stay near the ocean shore, allowing a knowledge-seeking wayfarer(s) the
opportunity to view the moon in all of its monthly phases.
At present, no coastal sites at or near the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia
reveal evidence of interactions with greatly distant Early Mississippian realms such as
Cahokia. In fact, the only support for this along the eastern seaboard comes from the
Mill Cove Complex. For some reason, Mill Cove was able to secure more prized pieces
of exotica than any other Atlantic tidewater community during the tenth through twelfth
centuries (Ashley 2012:112115). Knowledge of Mill Cove to residents of Macon
Plateau is conceivable based on a deep history of interaction between hunter-gatherers
of the lower Ocmulgee River region and northeastern Florida (Ashley et al. 2015:304).
The Ocmulgee territory lies immediately south of Macon Plateau along a direct
waterway route, eventually linking Macon Plateau to Mill Cove. The cordmarked
pottery made by Early Mississippian-period Ocmulgee foragers occurs in large num-
bers, as imports and local copies, at Mill Cove and other coeval St. Johns sites,
including Mt. Royal (Ashley et al. 2015; Rolland 2005). Mill Cove is only a week or
so travel by canoe from Macon Plateau, and an additional few days would have taken a
journeyer to Mt. Royal. There, they would have encountered a massive widening of the
St. Johns River that was described in awe by naturalist William Bartram in 1791 as the
little ocean of Lake George(Van Doren 1955:103). At 24 km in length and 10 km in
width, its daunting presence may very well have appeared to mark the worldssouthern
We know from sixteenth-century documents that interactions with outsiders often
required diplomacy and gift giving (Smith and Hally 1992). Drawing inspiration from
the historic Pawnee Calumet Ceremony, Hall (1991:31; 1997:151) proposes that the
conveying of Long-Nosed God maskettes was part of an adoption ritual that cemented
fictive kinship relationships between Cahokian leaders and political outsiders. Pauketat
(2009:145) goes further and identifies them as badges or gifts handed out to people
who would have forever after been affiliated with Cahokia.Moreover, in ethnograph-
ically documented encounters such as this, ideology is likely involved(Helms
1988:82). Cahokian travelers thus may have used this time to proselytize and spread
the word of Cahokia at local social gatherings, extolling its virtues and greatness
through the ritualized reciting of cosmological and creation narratives that placed
Cahokia at the center of the world (Pauketat 2005:205207). Such retellings would
have been visually enhanced with the aid of numinously meaningful and potent
trappings such as Long-Nosed God earpieces and other sacred paraphernalia.
In these historical moments, the transfer of social valuables or other items does not
reflect the social interaction but (re)creates it (Gosden and Marshall 1999;Miller2005).
Objects are active constituents and fundamental to the construction of durable social
relations. Their passing from one to another sets the stage for future interactions
between giver and receiver (Mauss 1967). Such gifts take on a biography of their
own that connects recipients to the original makers and all those who subsequently
possessed them (Gosden and Marshall 1999:173). Moreover, part of their value stems
from the geographical and temporal scales and webs of social relations through which
they circulate (Spielmann 2002:201). As these materials move, their use, function, and/
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
or meaning maintain the capacity to transform, as they become part of the historical
process. Objects are infused with meaning, but this meaning is not static or fixed.
Rather it is situational and undergoes change as people engage each other through
objects in particular contexts (Kopytoff 1986:68).
Cahokian wayfarers were likely presented with offerings of a local nature in their
interactions with St. Johns peoples, and the act of gift giving would have fostered
positive relations and the right of access to endemic raw materials like shell, shark
teeth, yaupon holly, and other portable coastal resources that accompanied them on
their return to Cahokia (Kelly 2012:305, 309). Those resources, originating directly
from the ocean waters of the eastern horizon where the sun ascends each day,
undoubtedly carried indexical connotations and extraordinary cosmological signifi-
cance. Even more precious than tangible objects may have been the privileged stories
of the sea locals knew and impressed upon their visitors from afar. Many cultures
imbue distant places with distinctive energies or properties bordering on the supernat-
ural, and knowledge gained from far-off realms combined with physical tokens of these
places is associated with power (Helms 1992:186). Gaining mastery of esoteric knowl-
edge and the cosmological realm would have been paramount to the success of
community leaders and religious specialists at Cahokia and other knowledge-based
Mississippian polities where ritual authoritywas used to overcome constraints on
political and economic growth(Cobb 2003:78).
For St. Johns functionaries, the foreign items likely held cosmological powers
because of their distant origins, mystical properties, object biographies, and connec-
tions to sacred knowledge (Helms 1988,1992). What is most important about the
adoptionof foreign objects and ideas is not their acceptance, but the manner in which
they are redefined culturally and put to local use (Kopytoff 1986:67). Because of their
archaeological occurrence in ceremonial and mortuary contexts, these inalienable items
conceivably assumed ritual significance for St. Johns peoples as material citations and
holders of memories signaling their social affiliation with distant peoples and lands
(Ashley and Rolland 2014:275). Engaging these objects in rituals would have elicited
a presence and a historyconnecting Mill Cove to the biographies and histories of
those objects and places as well as past peoples and social relations inextricably
entangled within them (Meskell 2004:45). Some of these powerful objects might have
had animating powers, alone or in combination with other objects (Pauketat 2013;
Zedeño 2008). For instance, the Long-Nosed God maskettes of copper, once donned
within a culturally sanctioned and spiritually charged ceremonial milieu, perhaps
enabled ones relationships to all the causal powers of this world and the next
(Pauketat 2013:7). As such, these goods were not merely mnemonics or calling cards
but social agents that played a role in the transformation of St. Johns II societies during
early Mississippian times.
Based on available evidence, we cannot rule out the possibility that individuals from
northeastern Florida undertook similar quests of their own to visit distant lands such as
Cahokia. Perhaps in response to hearing of the physical and ideological wonders of
Cahokia, some St. Johns representative(s) made a pilgrimage there to experience it for
themselves. Recent studies are now highlighting the generative role of pilgrimages to
Cahokiaand its related mound centers or shrines such as Emeraldin the construc-
tion of Cahokia (Skousen 2016). Some of the exotic items linked to the American
Bottom might have been procured there by locals and brought back to northeastern
Ashley and Thunen
Florida, where they served, in part, as powerful reminders of the sacred center and the
relationships their visit engendered. A pilgrim may have easily obtained certain objects,
such as Cahokia arrowheads and stone hoes, during a journey to the American Bottom,
but the copper Long-Nosed God maskettes and biconical earspools were not some sort
of mass-produced trinket available to anyone. Acquisition of these mystical objects
probably required intimate and powerful negotiations with high-ranking Cahokians,
requiring St. Johns peoples to legitimate their identity and prove their worth to Cahokia,
particularly if the visitors were unknown to anyone living there. Those returning from
Cahokia with such proof of a successful spiritual journey likely brought back sacred
knowledge in the form of stories, rituals, and architectural details (Kantner and Vaughn
During early Mississippian times, St. Johns groups actively sought out and incor-
porated exotica into their ritual and mortuary life. Although specifics are still unclear,
the assortment of nonlocal raw materials and finished products at Mill Cove and Mt.
Royal appears to have entered northeastern Florida from multiple sources and through
various modes of interaction, as social bonds were continuously forged or broken at
different times and in different places, with interacting parties negotiating in their own
interests. Throughout its movement, each item accumulated its own social entangle-
ments and powers. In addition to materializing relationships with distant and foreign
others, some objects, based on their material and metaphorical properties, carried
cosmic significance that helped link the living and the supernatural. In effect, these
prized items instantiated forces that had no pre-materialized presence.
Although Moores(1895:456468, 475488) account of his mound excavations is
incomplete and vague, he often notes that various pieces of exotica were at times
deposited together as caches in the mounds at Grant, Shields, and Mt. Royal, suggest-
ing these artifact concentrations might represent the remains of bundles. This is
especially true of tobacco pipes, whelk shell cups, and areas of red pigment that Moore
notes are frequently associated with manyobjects. In addition, copper plates often
were not worn at the time of interment but wrapped in bark or in vegetable fabric,
perhaps to contain their powerful or animating properties. Among many Native
American groups, these bundles and their evocative constituents are cast as object-
personswho embody both the physical world and the rules and regulations of the
cosmic, natural, and social orders(Zedeño 2008:365). In St. Johns ritual and mortuary
contexts, such powerful entities may have been called upon to draw connections to past
places and other worlds. In the same way, curated artifacts, such as Archaic projectile
points, stone beads, and bannerstones along with Woodland-period tobacco pipes,
found in these same mounds may have served to summon and enliven ancestor spirits.
These potent material things were deposited in mortuary mounds, singularly and in
bundles, as pieces of a cosmological map that together with other artifacts and burials
served to contextualize their place in the cosmos(Lucero 2010:14243).
As Cahokias size swelled, populations soon moved outward to places near and far.
However, none of these diasporic communities ever came close to Florida. Cahokians,
however, did establish contacts with peoples in remote areas possessing mystical
St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
landmarks and places, powerful forces, and/or raw materials. In this essay, we have
taken early steps in an attempt to understand the material linkages between Cahokia and
northeastern Florida through the occurrence of Cahokian-derived objects on St. Johns
River sites during the Early Mississippian period. Moving beyond the simple notion of
trade, we suggest episodes of direct contact between the two regions, as travelers from
Cahokia visited Mill Cove and Mt. Royal, or vice versa. The frequency, length of visit,
and duration of any direct interaction between St. Johns and Cahokian peoples remain
unclear. Regardless of who undertook the long-distance journeys, St. Johns groups
were part of an array of tenth- and eleventh-century relationships that contributed to the
making of Cahokia. At the same time, social interactions with Cahokia, other Missis-
sippian communities, and the objects they made and possessed played a role in
reshaping St. Johns II societies. Archaeological investigations at the Mill Cove Com-
plex continues, as we work to refine our temporal resolution, conduct chemical
sourcing, and perform geophysical survey to better understand interactions at all scales.
Acknowledgments We would like to thank Jayur Mehta, Sarah Baires, Melissa Baltus, and Liz Watts
Malouchos for inviting two Floridians to participate in their 2017 SEAC symposium on CahokiaDiaspora.
Special thanks also to Vicki Rolland, Nancy White, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful
comments on an earlier version of this paper.
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St. Johns River Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers: Floridas Connection to...
... The quantities of beads and quality of shells indicate that Mississippians made expeditions to obtain shells, rather obtaining them via down-the-line trade (Ashley and Thunen, 2020;Brown and Kelly, 2015;Kozuch, 2017;Stauffer, 2019). LW disk bead workshops in modern-day Florida indicate that some beads may have been made there for trade to northerly inland sites, though this is speculation (Austin, 2000;Barbour et al., 2019). ...
Shell beads were important to Mississippians, and thousands of beads were found mostly associated with burials. Here I synthesize data on shell bead workshops from Greater Cahokia, along with crafting techniques. Different bead types required different tools, which, in conjunction with shell remains, allow the differentiation of columella versus disk bead workshops. Perishable drill tips were probably used. Bead size standardization is distinguished from craft specialization, and time spent on crafting indicates full-time specialists. Expeditions to get lightning whelk shells from the Gulf of Mexico were a part of the operational chain. The resources spent traveling to obtain shells, large workshop areas, time spent crafting beads, ethnohistoric accounts of shell barter, and the roles lightning whelk artifacts had/have in helping souls travel during liminal situations such as transitioning to death, all underscore the importance of Mississippian shell beads.
... An LW bead crafting workshop on Florida's west coast in Levy County, dating from 900 to 1200 CE (Barbour et al. 2019), hints at the possibility of LW shell beads made and warehoused north of Tampa Bay for eventual barter with people from the northerly interior. Thus, contact between Cahokians and Native groups in Florida is possible (see also Ashley and Thunen 2020;Stauffer 2019). ...
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Around AD 1050 at Cahokia, a sudden coalescence of peoples with new ceremonials and Mound 72's commemorative human interments provide evidence of long–distance contacts and finely crafted artifacts. Beads from the famous Mound 72 Beaded Burial have remained unstudied since they were unearthed-a strange situation given the importance of the Beaded Burial. This article presents results from my reexamination of all shell artifacts from Mound 72, including some new artifact identifications, bead counts, and measurements. Artifacts previously called gorgets are shell cups, and one was remarkably large. The source was probably the eastern Gulf of Mexico for most marine shells. I present a new method of examining bead drill holes using the frustum formula, suggesting that porcupine quills or biological materials were used as drill tips for columella beads. This method can be used on stone and bone beads as well. I hypothesize a general decline in bead crafting through time. Paired shell artifact emplacements throughout Mound 72 echo the paired male/female human interments from the Beaded Burial, adding to evidence that Mound 72's burials were part of a ritual theater. My analysis supports the contention that marine shell artifacts were symbolic conduits of human spirits and power.
... The rise of Cahokia, the largest precontact Native American city north of Mexico, at AD 1050 just south of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers involved the large-scale mobilization and far-flung movement of peoples, objects, and practices. Populations from distant locales across the midcontinent and midsouth immigrated or made pilgrimages into the city while Cahokian emissaries and missionaries traveled far and wide with Cahokian politico-religious objects to spread a Cahokian lifeway (Alt 2002(Alt , 2006(Alt , 2018Ashley and Thunen 2020;Butler 2017;Mehta and Connaway 2020;Pauketat 2004Pauketat , 2013Pauketat et al. 2015;Skousen 2018). These centripetal and centrifugal movements were recurrent for a century and a half whereby integrative activities and religious events continued to draw city-dwellers, rural residents, and foreigners together and Cahokian persons, ideas, and power-laden items Mississippianized the hinterlands. ...
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The rise of Cahokia, the largest precontact Native American city north of Mexico, was precipitated by centripetal and centrifugal mobilizations of peoples, ideas, objects, and practices. To interrogate outward Cahokian movements as diasporic, I reassess relationships between Cahokia and the Angel polity on the northeastern Mississippian frontier. I approach Mississippian communities through a relational framework as ever-emerging assemblages constituted by both human and non-human actors. This framework emphasizes ethnogenesis as a process of diaspora whereby dispersed groups are in a perpetual state of community-making outside of, but in reference to, a homeland. I focus on an analysis of the Angel assemblage of Ramey Incised pottery, a power-laden Cahokian object, and determine that Angel Ramey exhibits local paste signatures in what are otherwise primarily Cahokian-style pots. Further, I contextualize artifactual connections with socio-spatial practices of Angel communities and demonstrate that aligning residential structures and communal features to a Cahokian cosmography was a principal part of community-identity-making throughout the Angel polity. Ultimately, I argue that relationships with Cahokia motivated ethnogenesis in Angel communities.
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Archaeologists have not readily applied collective action and institutional approaches to the study of hunter-gatherers. This is especially true of the American Southeast. Here, I use a review of the recent literature to illustrate the value of such approaches to understanding long-term histories. This review of hunter-gatherer archaeology spans the entire temporal range of Native American history in the Southeast. I argue that the term “hunter-gatherers” itself is constraining. In its place, I suggest that a focus on institutional change and collective action provides a way to better connect histories across temporal units, which then allows for a greater understanding of how such traditions developed, were maintained (or abandoned), and reinvented over the course of history. At the end of the review, I pose five key research areas that archaeologists should focus on that speak to institutions, the nature of public and private goods, common pool resources, and collective action regarding large-scale labor projects.
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The Carson site in northwest Mississippi is a monumental Mississippian center with evidence of large and small earthen mounds, an extensive palisaded village, and a bundle-burial mortuary complex. Over 70 houses have been uncovered from over a decade of salvage excavations at the site; these households bear evidence of local populations in the form of ceramics and stone tools, often belonging to the Parchman phase. In addition, numerous household structures that bear resemblance to Mississippian buildings from Cahokia and the American Bottom and that date to the Lohmann, Stirling, and Moorehead phases have also been discovered. The presence of these non-local structures and their material culture has provoked continued discussion on the nature of interactions between these two important centers. Herein, we offer a discussion on the nature of trade, diaspora, and Mississippian culture at Carson based on the analysis of material culture and architecture bearing Cahokian influences.
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Material assemblages excavated from sites across eastern North America indicate the existence of ancient exchange networks that once spanned from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and from the Atlantic to the Ozarks. Yet identifying specific mechanisms of trade is more difficult. This article investigates oral traditions about esnesv—persons who acted as travelers, traders, diplomats, and acolytes—told in a Native American community in the US South whose members identify as of Muskogee (Creek) ancestry. Esnesv traveled great distances, enjoyed impunity in enemy territories, facilitated exchanges of knowledge and materials with important celestial qualities, and mediated peacemaking between peoples. Esnesv stories provide Indigenous perspectives on ancient exchange and diplomacy practices as a historically particular and archaeologically viable alternative to elite-controlled trade models. These stories describe trade goods that are simultaneously of earth and sky, furthering archaeological understandings of landscape and cosmology by rethinking difference, distance, and materiality. Esnesv threaded earthly fragments of the sky and Milky Way through peoples’ relationships with foreign others, making exchange and peace within a world of roads connecting diverse, place-based lifeways. In doing so, they rebalanced the world, facilitating circulations of mobile landscapes and cosmic substances that generated new connectivities and ways of being. [oral traditions, exchange, decolonizing methodologies, Native American and Indigenous peoples, North America]. © 2018 The Authors American Anthropologist published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American Anthropological Association
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Forging Southeastern Identities: Social Archaeology and Ethnohistory of the Mississippian to Early Historic South, a groundbreaking collection of ten essays, covers a broad expanse of time-from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries-and focuses on a common theme of identity. These essays represent the various methods used by esteemed scholars today to study how Native Americans in the distant past created new social identities when old ideas of the self were challenged by changes in circumstance or by historical contingencies. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and folklorists working in the Southeast have always recognized the region’s social diversity; indeed, the central purpose of these disciplines is to study peoples overlooked by the mainstream. Yet the ability to define and trace the origins of a collective social identity-the means by which individuals or groups align themselves, always in contrast to others-has proven to be an elusive goal. Here, editors Gregory A. Waselkov and Marvin T. Smith champion the relational identification and categorical identification processes, taken from sociological theory, as effective analytical tools. Taking up the challenge, the contributors have deployed an eclectic range of approaches to establish and inform an overarching theme of identity. Some investigate shell gorgets, textiles, shell trade, infrastructure, specific sites, or plant usage. Others focus on the edges of the Mississippian world or examine colonial encounters between Europeans and native peoples. A final chapter considers the adaptive malleability of historical legend in the telling and hearing of slave narratives. © 2017 by the University of Alabama Press. All rights reserved.
This volume explores how native peoples of the Southeastern United States cooperated to form large and permanent early villages, using the site of Crystal River on Florida's Gulf Coast as a case study. Crystal River was once among the most celebrated sites of the Woodland period (ca. 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000), consisting of ten mounds and large numbers of diverse artifacts from the Hopewell culture. But a lack of research using contemporary methods at this site and nearby Roberts Island limited a full understanding of what these sites could tell scholars. Thomas Pluckhahn and Victor Thompson reanalyze previous excavations and conduct new field investigations to tell the whole story of Crystal River from its beginnings as a ceremonial center, through its growth into a large village, to its decline at the turn of the first millennium while Roberts Island and other nearby areas thrived. Comparing this community to similar sites on the Gulf Coast and in other areas of the world, Pluckhahn and Thompson argue that Crystal River is an example of an "early village society." They illustrate that these early villages present important evidence in a larger debate regarding the role of competition versus cooperation in the development of human societies. A volume in the Florida Museum of Natural History: Ripley P. Bullen Series. © Thomas J. Pluckhahn and Victor D. Thompson. All rights reserved.
This chapter investigates Mississippian beginnings in three regions; the Lower Illinois River Valley, the Central Illinois River Valley, and the Apple River Valley. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries each region witnessed a cultural transformation represented archaeologically in the appearance of Cahokian-style material culture. The nature of this transformation was highly variable as the inhabitants of some regions came to embrace a more complete assortment of Cahokian traditions than others.
Prehistoric Florida societies, particularly those of the peninsula, have been largely ignored or given only minor consideration in overviews of the Mississippian southeast (A.D. 1000-1600). This groundbreaking volume lifts the veil of uniformity frequently draped over these regions in the literature, providing the first comprehensive examination of Mississippi-period archaeology in the state. Featuring contributions from some of the most prominent researchers in the field, this collection describes and synthesizes the latest data from excavations throughout Florida. In doing so, it reveals a diverse and vibrant collection of cleared-field maize farmers, part-time gardeners, hunter-gatherers, and coastal and riverine fisher/shellfish collectors who formed a distinctive part of the Mississipian southeast. © 2012 by Keith Ashley and Nancy Marie White. All rights reserved.