Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Charles H. Faulkner

Committee Members

Paul W. Parmalee, John B. Rehder, Fred H. Smith


The Owl Hollow phase, a late Middle Woodland tradition, is identified in the upper Duck and Elk river valleys in the Eastern Highland Rim of south-central Tennessee. This hunter-gatherer and horticultural adaptation is documented with the material remains and features associated with eight large intensively occupied sites located in the main river valleys along minor tributary streams that drain the Highland Rim. Forty radiocarbon and eight archaeomagnetic dates indicate a temporal range of about A.D. 200-650 for the late Middle Woodland Owl Hollow phase.

The recovery of contemporaneous warm and cold season structures and a variety of associated seasonality data provides evidence that the Owl Hollow phase sites were occupied as year-round villages. The villages are delineated by organic-enriched middens that often occur in a circular pattern around a debris-free area that may have functioned as a plaza. A community pattern of one (or more) double earth oven winter lodges and contiguous light- framed circular or oval summer structures was revealed on four of the eight Owl Hollow sites excavated.

The analysis of floral and faunal materials indicates that subsistence was based primarily on hunting, fishing, and shellfish collecting, and on the gathering of arboreal hickory nuts, acorns, and herbaceous seeds. Squash/gourd, sunflower, and maize were cultivated and possibly contributed significantly to the Owl Hollow phase diet. The increased utilization of cultigens may have influenced the locality and the permanency of sites in the lowlands adjacent to large areas of alluvial soil.

The cultural materials diagnostic of the Owl Hollow phase are lanceolate, spike-shaped projectile points, and limestone and limestone/chert-tempered plain and stamped pottery. The analysis and typological comparison of these material remains suggests that both cultural continuity and change occurred during the Owl Hollow phase. The chronometric dates, which form three clusters, lend support to early, middle, and late periods of cultural development and occupation of Owl Hollow phase sites. The separate periods are distinguishable by relative frequencies of diagnostic cultural materials, changes in subsistence patterns, and variations in settlement locations.

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