Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard L. Jantz

Committee Members

Murray K. Marks, Lynne P. Sullivan, Darinka Mieusnic-Polchan


TVA/WPA excavations in East Tennessee in the 1930s uncovered archaeological sites critical for shaping theories about the prehistory of the region. Based on the archaeology of three of these sites, Hixon (AD 1155-1285), Dallas (AD 1350-1450), and Rymer (AD 1400-1600) in the Chickamauga Basin, early researchers concluded that each settlement resulted from migrations of biologically unrelated people into the area (Lewis and Lewis, 1941, 1946). Testing of this supposition using biological distance analysis (Weston, 2005) suggested that the sites instead represented biological continuity in the Chickamauga Basin.

In this study, cranial and postcranial non-metric traits are used to examine biological distance between the three Chickamauga Basin sites and an extra-regional site from the Watts Bar Basin, using Mahalanobis D2 with a tetrachoric correlation matrix. Results of this four-group study differed dramatically from the expected structure of biological relationships between the sites, suggesting that the Hixon population was completely unrelated biologically to the populations in both the Chickamauga and Watts Bar Basins. In fact, these results combined with ceramic decorative styles present at the Hixon site suggest the population may have immigrated from Etowah in Bartow County, Georgia, with a continued shared cultural identity with Etowah providing sufficient barrier to mate exchange with the other East Tennessee sites examined here. Results of both cranial and postcranial non-metric biological distance analyses indicate the strongest genetic affiliations for all four sites to be between Dallas in the Chickamauga Basin and DeArmond in Watts Bar, despite great geographical separation of the settlements.

In addition, an introduction to the skeletal biology of Watts Bar is presented via osteological examination of pathology and trauma of the DeArmond site. Smith (2003) recorded low levels of interpersonal and high levels of intrapersonal violence during the Dallas phase in the Chickamauga Basin. Results from DeArmond demonstrate similar rates and patterns, most likely reflecting a temporal trend in the region. The DeArmond skeletal remains exhibit low levels of metabolic stress but remarkably high levels of infectious disease. It appears that while all of the DeArmond individuals had access to high protein food resources regardless of status, status had little effect on preventing the spread of infection at the site.

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