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MILL COVE COMPLEX LITHIC TYPOLOGY: UNDERSTANDING EARLY MISSISSIPPIAN PERIOD SOCIAL EXCHANGE IN NORTHEASTERN FLORIDA

Thesis

MILL COVE COMPLEX LITHIC TYPOLOGY: UNDERSTANDING EARLY MISSISSIPPIAN PERIOD SOCIAL EXCHANGE IN NORTHEASTERN FLORIDA

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A large focus of Mississippian period archaeological research concerns itself with the role groups have played in the long-distance social exchange networks prevalent across the Mississippian World. The Mill Cove Complex, a Mississippian period (A.D. 900-1250) village and dual sand mound burial complex situated on the periphery of the Mississippian World in Jacksonville, Florida is one such case. The St. Johns II people living at the Mill Cove Complex had connections deep into the Mississippian southeast reaching all the way to Cahokia. Understanding the role of these unique people within the large social networks requires an examination of all archaeological material recovered from the site. The lithic assemblage from modern excavations (1999-present) is the final missing component in building this understanding. This lithic typology, based upon macroscopic and geochemical analysis, provides the final foundational set of data required for future research necessary to gain a more complete view of the St. Johns II people and their role in Mississippian long-distance social exchange. It lends insight into local community practices as well, highlighting the importance of lithic raw material in ritual use, illustrating direct connections with Cahokia based upon the presence of projectile points from the American Bottom, and demonstrating the resourcefulness of a people who overcame a lack of raw material within their geographic area through the maintenance of social networks and conservative use and maximization of procured stone resources.
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Stone tools are most often seen and studied as utilitarian objects. However, as with other types of material culture, lithics may have played an important role in the creation of identity and the negotiation of interpersonal relationships for people in the past. As a result, archaeologists interested in lithic technological organization should consider not just the function of stone tools to cut, scrape, or pierce; but also their social function. One evolutionary approach that links stone tool production, use, and discard with the potential social meaning and information that these tools have shared is costly signaling theory. Originating in biology and human behavioral ecology, costly signaling theory is concerned with wasteful and "uneconomic" displays that impact reproductive fitness and has been used successfully by several researchers to explain behaviors in humans and nonhuman animals. However, some researchers have identified existing archaeological applications of costly signaling theory as "just-so-stories" (Codding and Jones 2007), a crutch for inexplicable phenomena or seemingly illogical behavior in the archaeological record. Although costly signaling theory is a fertile theoretical approach, it is important that archaeological applications of costly signaling theory are grounded in the theory as well as the archaeological data. To make costly signaling theory a sound scientific approach, we must build models, develop hypotheses, and test them using the archaeological record.
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