Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Charles H. Faulkner

Committee Members

Gerald F. Schroedl, Jefferson Chapman, Walter E. Klippel, Paul A. Delcourt, Hazel R. Delcourt


Paleoethnobotanical remains recovered from Early Archaic through Historic Overhill Cherokee period archaeological sites in the lower Little Tennessee River Valley in Tennessee document prehistoric people's plant-exploitation patterns. This material provides the basis for establishing a model of prehistoric landscape change. Plant species represented by wood charcoal were assigned to bottomland, upland, and disturbed-upland habitats. Indian exploitation of upland favored species remained consistent through time. A progressively deforested landscape is indicated by diminished exploitation of bottomland-favored plant species in contrast to simultaneous increases in Indian utilization of disturbance-favored early successional taxa such as pine (Pinus spp.), cedar (Juniperus virginiana), and cane (Arundinaria).

Pollen and charcoal particle analyses of sediment cores from Black Pond and Tuskegee Pond, located within 3 km of the lower Little Tennessee River Valley archaeological sites, are the basis for reconstruction of the late-Holocene (3,000 B.P. to present) local vegetation. These palynological data provide an independent test of the paleoethnobotanical model of landscape change. These pollen spectra establish evidence of increased percentages of pollen of disturbance-favored arboreal and herbaceous taxa, especially pine and ragweed (Ambrosia type). Four major Ambrosia rises mark progressive, intensive land clearance during the Woodland, Mississippian, Historic Overhill Cherokee, and Historic Euro-American periods of occupation. The common precept of a single late-Holocene Ambrosia rise occurring solely in conjunction with Euro-American settlement in North America is negated. Moreover, the diversity of human impact on the local vegetation is illustrated by differences in fossil pollen assemblages at Black and Tuskegee ponds. At Tuskegee Pond, 1% to 2% maize (Zea mays) pollen is consistently represented from the Middle Woodland through Historic Overhill Cherokee periods, The evidence for maize agriculture on higher terraces as early as the Middle Woodland period is the first documentation that prehistoric maize cultivation was not confined to bottomland habitats.

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