Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

David G. Anderson

Committee Members

Jefferson Chapman, Benjamin M. Auerbach, Russell Zaretzki

Abstract

Data from seven Middle and Late Archaic sites in western Tennessee dating to ca. 8900 – 3200 cal BP are used explore how shell middens and mounds were created and used. The study sites – Eva (40BN12), Big Sandy (40HY18), Kays Landing (40HY13), Cherry (40BN74), Ledbetter Landing (40BN25), McDaniel (40BN77), and Oak View (40DR1) – were excavated during the Great Depression prior to the construction of the Kentucky Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

A high-resolution chronology of site use was developed, based on existing older radiocarbon assays and 50 new AMS determinations. These chronological data were used in conjunction with analyses of curated collections at the Frank H. McClung Museum to produce a synthesis of human occupation, including shell fish use, in this part of the Tennessee River Valley. The temporal data also formed the basis for in-depth examination of the composition of, and variation in, artifact assemblages, cultural features, and burial populations through time to assess changes in the intensity and manner of site use.

Results indicate that shellfishing appeared in western Tennessee by the mid-9th millennium cal BP, and continued sporadically throughout the Middle and Late Archaic periods until at least the mid-3rd millennium cal BP. Shell-bearing sites accumulated over many centuries. Although raw numbers of artifacts and human burials recovered from them are impressive, when contextualized within a temporal span of many centuries, they suggest periodic, or even sporadic, occupation rather than continuous use. It has been suggested, based on burial numbers, that freshwater shell-bearing sites resulted from feasting and other activities associated with funerary rituals. However, average annual burial rates for the study sites, when compared with modern and historic ethnographic data on hunter-gatherer mortality rates, suggest that these burial populations represent only a tiny fraction of the total number of deaths that would have occurred during the time the sites formed, and may be better interpreted as the long-term aggregated result of occasional deaths among groups who periodically occupied these sites.

Figure 5.5. Big Sandy Site Profile.pdf (11480 kB)
Attachment 1, Figure 5.5. Stratigraphic profiles at the Big Sandy site (40HY18). Reproduced from the original field map, D. Osborne, 1940 (Original on file at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville).

Figure 6.4. Eva Site Profile.pdf (19814 kB)
Attachment 2, Figure 6.4. Stratigraphic profiles at the Eva site (40BN12). Reproduced from the original field map, D. Osborne, 1940 (Original on file at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville).

Figure 7.4. Kays Landing Profile.pdf (28161 kB)
Attachment 3, Figure 7.4. Stratigraphic profiles at the Kays Landing site (40HY13). Reproduced from the original field map, G. Lidberg, 1940 (Original on file at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville).

Figure 8.4. Cherry Site Profile.pdf (8252 kB)
Attachment 4, Figure 8.4. Stratigraphic profile of the Cherry site (40BN74). Reproduced from the original field map, D. Osborne, 1941 (Original on file at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville).

Figure 8.24. Ledbetter Site Profile.pdf (6521 kB)
Attachment 5, Figure 8.24. Stratigraphic profile of the Ledbetter Landing site (40BN25). Reproduced from the original field map, G. Lidberg, 1940 (Original on file at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville).

Figure 8.35. McDaniel Site Profile.pdf (6497 kB)
Attachment 6, Figure 8.35. Stratigraphic profile of the McDaniel site (40BN77). Reproduced from original field drawing made by D. Osborne, 1941 (original on file at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville).

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Share

COinS