Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

William M. Bass

Committee Members

Charles H. Faulkner, Richard L. Jantz


The purpose of this study was to employ the techniques of physical anthropology in the examination of an archaeological hypothesis set forth by Thomas M. N. Lewis and Madeline Kneberg in the 1940's. The hypothesis concerned the possible Middle Tennessee origin of the Mouse Creek people. Mouse Creek cultural remains (e.g. settlement pattern, architecture, burial customs, and pottery) were judged to differ from their nearest contemporary neighbors, the Dallas, while showing certain similarities to the Middle Cumberland culture of Middle Tennessee.

A multivariate statistical analysis using 22 cranio-facial measurements was applied to skeletal material representing these three populations: the Mouse Creek and Dallas people from the eastern Tennessee Valley area and the Middle Cumberland people from the Cumberland Valley area in Middle Tennessee. The statistical approach used was that developed by Mahalanobis (1936), as modified by Goodman (1972). The resulting distances were expressed by Gower's (1972) principal coordinate analysis. The three groups, as well as the individual sites from which they were composed, were analyzed.

The biological distances indicate that the Mouse Creek males did not differ (at the 0.05 level) from either the Middle Cumberland or Dallas males. This was also the case for the Mouse Creek and Middle Cumberland females; however, the Mouse Creek females were distinct (at the 0.025 level) from the Dallas females. Similar relationships were also expressed by the individual sites. These results are supportive of the Lewis and Kneberg hypothesis and may further suggest a matrilocal kinship system for the three groups. These same relationships may also result from gene flow produced by political alliances and widespread trade and travel throughout the entire area. Such interactions would be stimulated by a common linguistic background.

These two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. Both the metric and archaeological data support the Lewis and Kneberg hypothesis. However, gene flow from years of trade, travel, and alliances is also a likely factor.

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