The Paleoindian and Early Archaic Southeast / Edition 1

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The southeastern United States has one of the richest records of early human settlement of any area of North America. This book provides the first state-by-state summary of Paleoindian and Early Archaic research from the region, together with an appraisal of models developed to interpret the data. It summarizes what we know of the peoples who lived in the Southeast more than 8,000 years ago—when giant ice sheets covered the northern part of the continent, and such mammals as elephants, saber-toothed tigers, and ground sloths roamed the landscape. Extensively illustrated, this benchmark collection of essays on the state of Paleoindian and Early Archaic research in the Southeast will guide future studies on the subject of the region's first inhabitants for years to come.

Divided in three parts, the volume includes:

Part I: Modeling Paleoindian and Early Archaic Lifeways in the Southeast

Environmental and Chronological Considerations, David G. Anderson, Lisa D. O'Steen, and Kenneth E. Sassaman
Modeling Paleoindian and Early Archaic Settlement in the Southeast: A Historical Perspective, David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman

Models of Paleoindian and Early Archaic Settlement in the Lower Southeast, David G. Anderson
Early Archaic Settlement in the South Carolina Coastal Plain, Kenneth E. Sassaman
Raw Material Availability and Early Archaic Settlement in the Southeast, I. Randolph Daniel Jr.
Paleoindian and Early Archaic Settlement along the Oconee Drainage, Lisa D. O'Steen
Haw River Revisited: Implications for Modeling Terminal Late Glacial and Early Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems in the Southeast, John S. Cable
Early Archiac Settlement and Technology: Lessons from Tellico, Larry R. Kimball
Paleoindians Near the Edge: A Virginia Perspective, Michael F. Johnson

Part II: The Regional Record

The Need for a Regional Perspective, Kenneth E. Sassaman and David G. Anderson
Paleoindian and Early Archaic Research in the South Carolina Area, David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman
The Taylor Site: An Early Occupation in Central South Carolina, James L. Michie
Paleoindian and Early Archaic Research in Tennessee, John B. Boster and Mark R. Norton
A Synopsis of Paleoindian and Early Archaic Research in Alabama, Eugene M. Futato
Statified Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Deposits at Dust Cave, Northwestern Alabama, Boyce N. Driskell
Bone and Ivory Tools from Submerged Paleoindian Sites in Florida, James S. Dunbar and S. David Webb
Paleoindian and Early Archaic Data from Mississippi, Samuel O. McGahey
Early and Middle Paleoindian Sites in the Northeastern Arkansas Region, J. Christopher Gillam

Part III: Commentary

A Framework for the Paleoindian/Early Archaic Transition, Joel Gunn
Modeling Communities and Other Thankless Tasks, Dena F. Dincauze
An Arkansas View, Dan F. Morse
Comments, Henry T. Wright

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The research base for this book has been accumulating for over 20 years. This is a timely synthesis by southeastern archaeologists and will serve as a benchmark study to be used by scholars both within and outside the Southeast." —Albert C. Goodyear, Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, The University of South Carolina

"A state-of-the-art summary for this important area of hunter-gatherer research . . . and a mandatory addition to the libraries of anyone interested in this dynamic period of prehistory." —American Antiquity

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817308353
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 1,047,905
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David G. Anderson is an Archaeologist with the National Park Service in Tallahassee, Florida. Kenneth E. Sassaman is an Archaeologist with the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in Columbia.

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The Paleoindian and Early Archaic Southeast

By David G. Anderson, Kenneth E. Sassaman

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1996 The University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-0835-3


Environmental and Chronological Considerations

David G. Anderson, Lisa D. O'Steen, and Kenneth E. Sassaman


The initial human occupation of the Southeast in all probability occurred between 15,000 and 11,000 years before the present (B.P.), during the Late Glacial era. At that time, sea levels were 70 or more meters lower than at the present, and the Atlantic and Gulf shorelines were considerably seaward of their present location. As the continental ice sheets retreated in the north, water was returned to the oceans, and large sections of the continental shelf were inundated. By 9000 B.P. sea level was within a few meters of its present elevation. Widespread extinctions accompanied these environmental changes in North America, specifically the loss of over 30 genera of large mammals, including the Equidae and Camelidae (horses and camels) and all of the members of the order Proboscidea (elephants) (P. Martin 1984:361–63). Contemporary analyses indicate that these extinctions were essentially complete by ca. 10,000 years ago, and possibly as early as 10,500 to 10,800 B.P. (Grayson 1987; Mead and Meltzer 1984:447), shortly after widespread evidence for human settlement appears in the New World archaeological record. The relationship between these human and animal populations is a matter of considerable controversy (Martin and Klein 1984). While human predation of megafauna has been conclusively demonstrated at a number of locations, most notably in the Southwest and on the Great Plains, until recently little evidence for megafaunal exploitation had been recovered from the eastern United States.

This picture is no longer valid. A major accomplishment of Southeastern Paleoindian research in recent years has been the discovery and widespread acceptance of evidence for direct associations between human and now-extinct terminal Pleistocene fauna. Incontrovertible evidence currently exists only from Florida, and includes a speared giant tortoise from Little Salt Springs (Clausen et al. 1979), and the discovery of a Bison antiquus skull in the Wacissa River with a projectile point embedded in its forehead (Webb et al. 1984). In addition, a number of tools carved from green proboscidean ivory and other modified megafaunal bone have been found in Florida waters and have been inventoried by Dunbar and Webb (Dunbar 1991; chapter 17, this volume). Artifacts and human remains have also occasionally been found in cave, sinkhole, salt lick, or rockshelter settings elsewhere in the region, sometimes in deposits with Pleistocene fauna, and increasing care is being directed to understanding the context of these discoveries, to resolve questions of association and contemporaneity (e.g., Elliott and Martin 1991; Tankersley 1985; chapter 19, this volume). On the margins of the Southeast, furthermore, other indisputable associations of humans and mastodon have been found, at Kimmswick in southern Missouri (Graham et al. 1981), Martin's Creek in Ohio (Brush and Smith 1994), and Coates-Hindes in western Tennessee (John Broster, personal communication 1995). There is little doubt that Paleoindian populations in the Southeast hunted megafauna; what remains to be resolved, however, is how important this food source was, and what impact human predation had on the biosphere.

Recent broad-scale paleoenvironmental analyses from the Southeast indicate that major changes in vegetational communities have also occurred over the last 15,000 years. The period from 12,000 to 10,000 B.P., the time of postulated initial human settlement, was one of great change, because "the relatively patchy environment was shifting to one of latitudinally and elevationally segregated zones" (R. Kelly and Todd 1988:232). In the South Appalachian area north of 33° N, northern hardwoods such as oak, hickory, beech, birch, and elm replaced the Full Glacial spruce-pine boreal forest during this period (H. Delcourt and Delcourt 1985; P. Delcourt and Delcourt 1987) (figure 1.1). Over this same interval, temperatures were becoming warmer in summer and colder in winter, and precipitation was increasing (Watts 1980a–b). The vegetational matrix was thus changing rapidly, trending from a patchy boreal forest-parkland toward a homogeneous, mesic oakhickory forest. In ecological terms, the vegetation was changing from immature, or coarse grained, to mature, or fine grained (Pianka 1978). The best available evidence suggests that this transition was complete over much of the lower Southeast by shortly after 10,000 B.P., and almost certainly by 9000 B.P. (Anderson et al. 1989; Boyd 1989; M. Davis 1983:172–73; Delcourt and Delcourt 1983:269, 1985:19, 1987; Larsen 1982:208–22; Watts 1971:687, 1980a:195).

South of 33° N, in the South Appalachian area and across much of the Southeast outside of peninsular Florida, evidence suggests that a hardwood canopy was in place considerably earlier, perhaps throughout much of the previous glacial cycle (H. Delcourt and Delcourt 1985; P. Delcourt and Delcourt 1983, 1987; T. Webb 1987). Although traditionally viewed as a time of major paleoenvironmental change, the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene in this part of the lower Southeast (prior to the Hypsithermal interval) appears to have been characterized by stable regional oak-hickory vegetational communities. Only during the Middle Holocene Hypsithermal interval, from circa 8000–4000 B.P., did southern pine communities begin to emerge in the sandy interriverine uplands; this was also the period when extensive riverine swamps began to emerge (Brooks et al. 1986; M. Davis 1983; H. Delcourt and Delcourt 1985; P. Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Delcourt et al. 1983; Foss et al. 1985; J. Howard et al. 1980; Knox 1983; Segovia 1985; H. E. Wright 1976).

Biotic resource structure has been shown to influence prehistoric group size, technological organization, and mobility patterns. This has been documented on both a global scale (Binford 1980; R. Kelly 1983, 1992; Shott 1986a) and within the lower Southeast (Anderson and Hanson 1988; Cable 1982a). The patchy forest structure north of 33° N and south of the ice sheets–tundra margin shortly after 12,000 B.P. in the Southeast would have been ideally suited for what have been called logistically organized collector adaptations (after Binford 1980). That is, patchy environments are best exploited by groups radiating out from central base camps and staying at short-term camps as long as necessary to collect resources prior to returning to the home base. This adaptation is known as a collector strategy, since task groups go out for extended periods in the collection of resources, which they then bring back to their settlement. While groups practicing collector strategies do move their base camps, they usually do so only when local resources are depressed or exhausted to the point where the costs of moving are less than those of finding food. The archaeological record of collector groups includes base settlements and extended resource procurement camps. These adaptations are commonly characterized by highly formalized tool kits, assemblages that would have been most advantageous during extended resource procurement forays.

Collector or logistically based adaptations are, in fact, assumed by many researchers to characterize initial Paleoindian groups in North America. Paleoindian tool kits over the region are renowned for their well-made artifacts, including superbly executed bifaces as well as hafted end and side scrapers, gravers, spokeshaves, adzes, denticulates, and other tool forms. These artifacts were curated; that is, they were carried about from place to place and reused as necessary until they were worn out. These tools were frequently made of high-quality lithic raw material, which would have facilitated reworking and hence helped conserve raw material (Goodyear 1979). Movement over large areas also characterized these early populations, with group ranges centered on quarries or other particularly desirable environmental features where home bases appear to have been located (W. Gardner 1989). Once resources in the base camp–logistic station procurement zone began to become exhausted, however, relocation of the base settlement may have required a fairly extended move (R. Kelly 1983; Shott 1986a).

In contrast, in the homogeneous hardwood canopy south of 33° N, on the Gulf of Mexico and lower South Atlantic Slope, less evidence for Early Paleoindian settlement might be expected, since the initial founding populations were apparently not technologically and organizationally adapted to such an environment. This is indeed the situation that has been observed archaeologically; much of the lower southeastern Coastal Plain outside of Florida (which has its own unique environmental conditions) appears to have been largely unoccupied until late in the Paleoindian era or even into the subsequent Archaic period (Anderson 1990a, 1995a).

The homogeneous forest cover in the lower Southeast south of 33° N would, however, have been highly conducive to what have been described as residentially mobile foraging adaptations, that is, adaptations where people foraged over the landscape, readily and repeatedly moving their residences as food in their immediate area became exhausted (after Binford 1980). Archaeological assemblages from foraging adaptations are dominated by numerous short-term camps and by what are called expedient assemblages, composed of tools that were casually made, used, and then discarded on an ad hoc or situational basis. Formal, curated tools tend to be rare in such assemblages, as is the use of high-quality lithic material, unless it happens to outcrop locally. While foraging groups may, like collectors, move over large areas, each individual move tended to be fairly limited, typically no greater than necessary to place the residence near undepleted resources (R. Kelly 1983; Shott 1986a).

As the hardwood canopy expanded from its refugia below 33° N in the lower Southeast and as resource structure changed throughout the region, foraging adaptations appear to have been forced upon the resident human populations. This spread of the deciduous canopy, as noted previously, was occurring during the Paleoindian period, from circa 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, and the initial populations thus had to adjust to rapidly changing environmental conditions. The cultural changes that occurred in response are beginning to be recognized in the archaeological record, and it is during the Paleoindian period that foraging adaptations, traditionally assumed to have developed later, in the Early or Middle Archaic periods, are now thought by some to have emerged in the Southeast (Meltzer 1988; Meltzer and Smith 1986; Morse 1975a). The paleoenvironmental record, accordingly, indicates that the Paleoindian period was one of great change, both culturally and environmentally.


Paleoindian assemblages in the Southeast are commonly, if somewhat arbitrarily, placed into Early, Middle, and Late subperiods, with estimated temporal ranges of from circa 12,500 to 10,900 B.P., 10,900 to 10,500 B.P., and 10,500 to 10,000 B.P. (Anderson 1990a). These subperiods correspond to the occurrence of lanceolate fluted points resembling western Clovis forms; fluted and unfluted forms with broad blades and constricted hafts like the Cumberland, Suwannee, Simpson, Quad, and Beaver Lake types; and resharpened lanceolate corner- and side-notched forms like Dalton, San Patrice, Bolen, and Big Sandy. The subperiods are equated with populations exploring and colonizing the region in the Early Paleoindian, establishing regional population concentrations and cultural variants in the Middle Paleoindian, and making the switch to essentially modern flora and fauna, and the adoption of a way of life that would characterize much of the ensuing Archaic period, during the Late Paleoindian.

All dates in this manuscript, unless otherwise noted, are reported in years B.P.; these dates actually refer to radiocarbon years before the present rather than strict calendar years, reflecting the principle method currently employed to determine the age of the associated assemblages. Calibrations tying the radiocarbon time scale to calendrical dates have not been developed as of yet this far back into the past (e.g., Stuiver and Becker 1986; Stuiver and Reimer 1993), so the relationship between the radiocarbon and actual time scales is unknown. Current evidence suggests the correspondence is not at all close, however, and that an appreciable time range may be represented by the interval radiocarbon dated from circa 11,500 to 10,000 B.P., possibly as much as 2500 or more years (Faught 1996). Precise determination of the amount of time represented is, of course, crucial to the development of accurate models of colonization and settlement.

No satisfactory evidence exists at the present for "pre-Clovis" occupation(s) in the East. While Meadowcroft rock shelter in southwestern Pennsylvania has yielded a series of pre-Clovis dates, controversy continues about their interpretation and context (Haynes 1992:367). The Natchez pelvis, originally found with Late Pleistocene megafaunal remains, was redated using accelerator mass spectrometry to 5580 ± 80 B.P. (e.g., Cotter 1991; Maria Smith 1993:63). Lithic reduction analyses conducted over the past two decades have led to the dismissal of homegrown pre-Clovis candidates like the so-called Lively pebble tool complex from Alabama, in actuality cores from initial stage lithic reduction activity as well as expedient tools most commonly found in Late Archaic populations (Futato, this volume); the "complex" is now seen as a speculative construct rather than an assemblage captured in clear stratigraphic context (Steponaitis 1986:368). Two other early sites from the Southeast provide somewhat stronger evidence for the existence of possible pre-Clovis occupations in the region. Both are from Florida, and date to between 12,000 and 12,500 B.P. At Page-Ladson, five dates bracketing this interval have been obtained from a level containing a mastodon tusk with cut marks (chapter 17, this volume; S. David Webb, personal communication, 1995), and at Little Salt Springs, a wooden spear associated with a giant tortoise was dated to 12,030 ± 200 B.P. (Clausen et al. 1979:611). While these dates raise the possibility of early human occupations in the Southeast well before the currently accepted maximum age for western Clovis at 11,200 B.P. (or possibly 11,600 B.P., if the recent dating of Clovis materials at the Aubrey site in Texas holds up), because the associated artifacts are few in number, and because their existence is difficult to reconcile with theories that see Clovis technology as the signature of the region's founding population, their acceptance has been limited. Many more dates with small sigmas—and plenty of associated artifacts—will be needed from secure contexts before there will be widespread acceptance in the professional archaeological community that human occupation in the region predates ca. 11,200 B.P., or even that fluting technology could be earlier in the Southeast than in the western half of the continent. No other firm evidence supporting pre-Clovis occupations has been found in the Southeast, in spite of the extensive research- and CRM-based survey and excavation activity that has taken place in recent years.

The first unequivocal evidence for human occupation in the southeastern United States dates to about 11,500 B.P., during the terminal Pleistocene era, when assemblages characterized by fluted lanceolate projectile points appear widely over the region. These points and other materials found with them are assumed to represent the remains of human groups who entered the region from the west and spread out beyond passages in the northern ice sheets. These first, Paleoindian occupations have been provisionally grouped into three broad temporal groupings, corresponding to Early, Middle, and Late or transitional Paleoindian subperiods (Anderson et al. 1990a; O'Steen et al. 1986:9) (figure 1.2). The Early Paleoindian is thought to date from circa 11,500 to 10,800 B.P., and occupations of this subperiod are identified by the presence of classic Clovis fluted points similar to those found in the Southwest. The points are relatively large lanceolates with nearly parallel sides, ground haft margins, slightly concave bases, and single or multiple flutes that rarely extend more than a third of the way up the body (Sellards 1952; Wormington 1957). Points that resemble the classic Clovis type but for which minor typological uncertainty exists, as is common for many broken or smaller specimens, are typically assigned to a Clovis category locally and are also attributed to the Early Paleoindian subperiod. Other names sometimes used to describe these forms are Eastern Clovis and Gainey (MacDonald 1983; R. Mason 1962; Shott 1986b; Simons et al. 1984).


Excerpted from The Paleoindian and Early Archaic Southeast by David G. Anderson, Kenneth E. Sassaman. Copyright © 1996 The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Figures and Tables,
Part I: Modeling Paleoindian and Early Archaic Lifeways in the Southeast,
1. Environmental and Chronological Considerations David G. Anderson, Lisa D. O'Steen, and Kenneth E. Sassaman,
2. Modeling Paleoindian and Early Archaic Settlement in the Southeast: A Historical Perspective David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman,
3. Models of Paleoindian and Early Archaic Settlement in the Lower Southeast David G. Anderson,
4. Early Archaic Settlement in the South Carolina Coastal Plain Kenneth E. Sassaman,
5. Raw Material Availability and Early Archaic Settlement in the Southeast I. Randolph Daniel, Jr.,
6. Paleoindian and Early Archaic Settlement along the Oconee Drainage Lisa D. O'Steen,
7. Haw River Revisited: Implications for Modeling Terminal Late Glacial and Early Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems in the Southeast John S. Cable,
8. Early Archaic Settlement and Technology: Lessons from Tellico Larry R. Kimball,
9. Paleoindians Near the Edge: A Virginia Perspective Michael F. Johnson,
Part II: The Regional Record,
10. The Need for a Regional Perspective Kenneth E. Sassaman and David G. Anderson,
11. Paleoindian and Early Archaic Research in the South Carolina Area David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman,
12. The Taylor Site: An Early Occupation in Central South Carolina James L. Michie,
13. Paleoindian and Early Archaic Research in Georgia R. Jerald Ledbetter, David G. Anderson, Lisa D. O'Steen, and Daniel T. Elliott,
14. Recent Paleoindian Research in Tennessee John B. Broster and Mark R. Norton,
15. A Synopsis of Paleoindian and Early Archaic Research in Alabama Eugene M. Futato,
16. Stratified Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Deposits at Dust Cave, Northwestern Alabama Boyce N. Driskell,
17. Bone and Ivory Tools from Submerged Paleoindian Sites in Florida James S. Dunbar and S. David Webb,
18. Paleoindian and Early Archaic Data from Mississippi Samuel O. McGahey,
19. A Stone's Throw from Kimmswick: Clovis Period Research in Kentucky Andrea K. L. Freeman, Edward E. Smith, Jr., and Kenneth B. Tankersley,
20. Early and Middle Paleoindian Sites in the Northeastern Arkansas Region J. Christopher Gillam,
Part III: Commentary,
21. A Framework for the Paleoindian/Early Archaic Transition Joel Gunn,
22. Modeling Communities and Other Thankless Tasks Dena F. Dincauze,
23. An Arkansas View Dan F. Morse,
24. Comments Henry T. Wright,

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