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 investigation was to define and quantify the morphological relationship between prehistoric Dallas and historic Overhill Cherokee skeletal populations in east Tennessee in order to test two theories concerning Cherokee prehistory in the eastern Tennessee Valley. One theory states that the Cherokee did not arrive in the Valley until long after European contact; the other theory suggest that the Cherokee have possibly been occupying this area since as early as the Archaic period.

Methods of metrical analysis currently in use in physical anthropological research were used to test these two theories. The morphological distance between Dallas and Cherokee was compared with the distances between Dallas and Muskhogean and Iroquoian skeletal populations. This was accomplished by the application of Penrose's "size" and "shape" distance statistic as modified by Rahman (1962) and by principal coordinates analysis.

Crania were chosen as the units of analysis and eight facial measurements were used in the final analysis. Males and females were analyzed separately. Several Dallas and Overhill Cherokee sites in east Tennessee were sampled and the crania were measured by the author. For comparative material, several sites in the Southeast and Northeast were sampled. Of this material, only one population was able to be measured by the author. Published means of the eight measurements were used for the remaining populations.

It was found for the males that the Dallas, Cherokee, and Thompson Village populations grouped together distinct from the Irene-Moundville-Koger's Island cluster and the separate Iroquois grouping. The female populations clustered in basically the same way but with two exceptions: (1) the prehistoric populations of the Iroquois group were found closer to the Irene complexes; and (2) the distribution within the Irene-Moundville-Koger's Island group was different and exhibited greater spread between populations.

In conclusion, the results can only be considered suggestive at best. However, the author feels that the data were explained better by one Dallas-Cherokee theory than the other. Within the framework of these particular data, the results of the morphological analysis are best explained by the theory that the Dallas people in east Tennessee were of Muskhogean affiliation and not the direct ancestors of the Iroquoian-speaking historic Overhill Cherokee. This would assume a recent arrival of the Cherokee into the eastern Tennessee Valley, but there was no way to determine in this analysis just when this might have occurred.

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