Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Kandace D. Hollenbach

Committee Members

Boyce N. Driskell, David G. Anderson

Abstract

Sites 40GN228 and 40GN229, located in Greene County, Tennessee, provide a record of subsistence change and variation in landscape management practices spanning from the Late Paleoindian to the Pisgah phase of the Mississippian period. The botanical remains from these sites detail changing plant-human relationships over a 12,000-year time span in the upper Ridge and Valley of eastern Tennessee. The expansive temporal and spatial scale of the two sites presented an opportunity to evaluate the plant assemblages on several levels. The substantial cultural deposits allowed a synchronic and diachronic look into plant use. In addition, the geographic proximity of the two sites, which initially suggested homogenous site use, offered a chance to evaluate the effects of micro-scale differences in environmental and depositional processes on the cultural deposits.

Using complimentary datasets, the paleoethnobotanical analysis of 33 features and four column floatation samples is compared to geoarchaeological correlates to determine the relationship between subsistence economy, landscape use, and site formation processes at these two sites situated on adjacent banks of the Nolichucky River. Distinctive land use practices conditional to each landform are identified, with investment in horticulture restricted to the western side of the river. The initial investment in indigenous seed crops at 40GN228 beginning in the Late Archaic transitioned into intensified use in the Early Woodland. Evidence of intentional burning of the lower terrace channel bar illustrates direct investment in a distinctive microhabitat suited for this purpose.

The plant analysis presented in this thesis illustrates the high degree of intra- and intersite variability in cultural assemblages. The geographic proximity of the sites, along with cultural contemporaneity cannot be used to suggest uniformity in plant assemblages. Likewise, even though a site may be subject to frequent floods, significant cultural activities have the potential to be seen in the deposits. Sampling comprehensively and utilizing complementary datasets such as paleoethnobotanical and geoarchaeological, can allow us to tease apart the small but distinct differences in plant use and continue to better understand prehistoric site use strategies and land management practices.

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