Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Walter E. Klippel

Committee Members

Charles H. Faulkner, Jefferson Chapman, Jan F. Simek, Edward E. C. Clebsch


During the late 1970s and early 1980s the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville conducted an inventory and assessment of archaeological resources potentially affected by the proposed Columbia Reservoir on the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. Two environmental subdivisions of the Nashville Basin were present in the reservoir area: the patchy Inner Basin and the more homogeneous Outer Basin. As the majority of the archaeological material found was referable to the Middle and Late Archaic Periods, the research design focused on an investigation of Archaic adaptation in this environmentally variable landscape.

Two river bends selected as representative of the Inner (Cheek Bend) and Outer (Cannon Bend) basin environments were surfaced collected in a non-site manner. Approximately 82,000 artifacts were collected. The goals of this study are to describe the patterning of Middle and Late Archaic materials across the surfaces of these two bends, and to evaluate the power of two models derived from optimization theory to explain the observed distributions.

Description is aided through the definition of two analytic units: projectile point types and sites. Discriminant analysis is used to define five projectile point types and to classify approximately 300 recovered specimens. Sites are recognized as non-random artifact density levels defined through comparison with Poisson distributions.

The distribution of artifacts is compared to expectations derived from a model of optimal nest spacing among Brewer's blackbirds. This model leads to the expectation that dispersed settlement would have resulted in shorter foraging trips in the predictable Inner Basin, while a nucleated settlement pattern would have been more efficient in the unpredictable Outer Basin. The observed pattern generally conforms to these expectations.

Specific site locations are evaluated in terms of a generalized energy minimization model; setting near the river, on level ground, and with a southern exposure, are expected to have been selected for settlement. The observed pattern of site distribution is found to generally conform to these expectations.

It is concluded that Archaic hunter-gatherers in the Nashville Basin of Tennessee were efficient foragers who responded through settlement arrangement to environmental variability.

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