Date of Award

12-1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Walter Klippel

Committee Members

Paul W. Parmalee, Paul R. Delcourt, Andrew Kramer

Abstract

This study is based upon a Quaternary vertebrate assemblage from the Central Mississippi Alluvial Valley donated to the Memphis Pink Palace Museum, the Connaway Collection. A total of 2288 skeletal elements were analyzed. Of the 2288 analyzed, 1097 were identified minimally to the generic level. Significantly, 610 (NISP) of the elements identified were attributed to animals with a grazing or open grassland adaptation and 431 (NISP) adapted to a woodland or forest edge adaptation. Paleoecological analysis of this fauna along with nearby river valley assemblages, paleovegetation, geomorphology and microvertebrates assemblages of the Midsouth were analyzed in an attempt to understand the environments of the initial colonization by humans. Subsistence of aboriginal peoples during the Paleoindian period in the southeastern United States has been interpreted as representative of a generalized subsistence strategy, with minimal hunting of extinct megafauna in a closed woodland environment. The reason for this perception is enhanced because of the lack of classic kill sites in the eastern United States. It is important to note that this interpretation is not based upon paleoenvironments of the major river valleys of the East. However, archaeological data collected indicate that the strongest concentration of Early Paleoindian diagnostics and raw lithic material are found in these river valleys, not in the regions between them. Only after the last megafauna extinction event (10,800 yr B.P.) is there evidence of the emergence of the sub-regional cultures and subsistence on an impoverished Holocene fauna. The fauna represented in the Connaway Collection is compatible with the high concentrations of fluted points found in this region and is indicative of a big game open range hunting strategy similar to the Early Paleoindian of the western United States. The alluvial processes of the river valleys also explain the lack of in situ kill sites. A combination of rich mosaic grassland and mixed woodland adapted megafauna and rich sources of chert in the river valleys of the Midsouth likely attracted the earliest immigrants to the region.

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