Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Kandace D. Hollenbach

Committee Members

David G. Anderson, Barbara J. Heath, Sally P. Horn


This study examines how foodways differences between the multiple Mississippian settlements that were occupied circa 900 to 1300 CE at the Townsend sites (40BT89, 40BT90, and 40BT91) in East Tennessee, U.S.A., reflect the distinct choices people made in response to variation in the social conditions they faced in a boundary location. Located in a narrow valley cove at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, these sites lie between two physiographic provinces, the Ridge and Valley Province to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains Province to the east, as well as between two cultural traditions, the Hiwassee Island to the west and the Pisgah to the east. The location of the sites can be viewed as an opportunity to escape regional social pressure, or alternatively as a strategy to place a community as a point of contact between diverse natural resources and cultural groups.

I contribute to the growing body of work in the Southeast that challenges the construction of Mississippian lifeways as driven by elites and large Mississippian polities. I use foodways as a lens to understand how the actions of everyday life, the performance of daily activities, reflect group decisions made in response to social and/or environmental circumstances. Using the multiple settlements, both farmsteads and villages, across the sites, I perform a household analysis to identify differences in the use and placement of features, as well as the distribution and spatial patterning of plant taxa and ceramic vessels with different temper and surface treatments.

Variation in foodways traditions between the different settlements indicate that people responded to their social circumstances in various ways, particularly growing and processing corn in different places. At Village 1, I suggest that residents used infield instead of outfield cultivation, which is an indication of increasing social pressure in the region. Multiple lines of evidence at Village 1 also point to the occupation of this single settlement by both Hiwassee Island and Pisgah related people, which I argue is evidence of a unique instance of cultural solidarity in this highland location.

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