Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jan Simek

Committee Members

David G. Anderson, Boyce Driskell, Julie Reed


Perishable artifacts made from plants and fibers were likely an integral part of daily life in the prehistoric Southeast. While these items rarely survive in the archaeological record, their manufacture may be identified through the examination of non-perishable tools, specifically lithic artifacts. Observations by ethnographers, travelers, and missionaries in the Southeast have cross-culturally identified women as the primary harvesters and collectors of plant materials for both subsistence and material culture production. While most accounts leave out specific details regarding the tools utilized in production of perishable objects, there is reason to suspect that lithic artifacts were used in various plant processing activities. Unfortunately there has been minimal experimentation with stone tools and native Southeastern plants, and few studies which attempt to link such activities to gendered individuals in the past. This dissertation focuses primarily on the processing of river cane for the production of split-cane technology and attempts to understand how production related activities manifest in the archaeological record.

By combining an Organization of Technology Approach with an Anthropology of Technology perspective, I examine the Archaic and Woodland flake tool assemblage at the Mussel Beach site in Tennessee and attempt to understand, through changes in tool form and function, how gender and population demographics changed during each temporal occupation. As a means of inferring tool type and function, flake tools were examined and characterized by morphological and technological characteristics. In order to infer tool function, lithic artifacts from the Mussel Beach site were examined using both low and high-power microscopy. When the results of the functional analysis are combined with the data from the faunal and paleobotanical assemblages, it is possible to discuss site activities at Mussel Beach from a gendered perspective, and moreover recognize split-cane production in the archaeological record.

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