Signs of Power: The Rise of Cultural Complexity in the Southeast

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Traces the sources of power and large-scale organization of prehistoric peoples among Archaic societies.

By focusing on the first instances of mound building, pottery making, fancy polished stone and bone, as well as specialized chipped stone, artifacts, and their widespread exchange, this book explores the sources of power and organization among Archaic societies. It investigates the origins of these technologies and their effects on long-term (evolutionary) and short-term (historical) change.

The characteristics of first origins in social complexity belong to 5,000- to 6,000-year-old Archaic groups who inhabited the southeastern United States. In Signs of Power, regional specialists identify the conditions, causes, and consequences that define organization and social complexity in societies. Often termed "big mound power," these considerations include the role of demography, kinship, and ecology in sociocultural change; the meaning of geometry and design in sacred groupings; the degree of advancement in stone tool technologies; and differentials in shell ring sizes that reflect social inequality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This volume aptly illustrates the very complex nature of Archaic societies that constructed the earliest earthworks in the New World and sets their activities in the broader context of their times."—John Kelly, Washington University at St. Louis

"The real value of Signs of Power is that several key chapters address central issues in archaeology, such as the nature of power, the meaning of socially constructed landscapes (i.e., mounds), technology, interaction, and social identity. The essays in this volume are valuable not only for the Southeastern archaeologist but also for anyone interested in the genesis of these particular phenomena in prehistory."
Southeastern Archaeology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817313913
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon L. Gibson is Professor (Retired) of Anthropology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and author of The Ancient Mounds of Poverty Point.  

Philip J. Carr is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Alabama and editor of The Organization of North American Prehistoric Chipped Stone Tool Technologies.

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Table of Contents

1 Big mounds, big rings, big power 1
2 Late Archaic fisher-foragers in the Apalachicola-lower Chattahoochee Valley, Northwest Florida-South Georgia/Alabama 10
3 Measuring shell rings for social inequality 26
4 Regional-scale interaction networks and the emergence of cultural complexity along the northern margins of the Southeast 71
5 The Green River in comparison to the lower Mississippi Valley during the Archaic : to build mounds or not to build mounds? 86
6 Cultural complexity in the Middle Archaic of Mississippi 97
7 The Burkett Site (23MI20): implications for cultural complexity and origins 114
8 Poverty point chipped-stone tool raw materials : inferring social and economic strategies 129
9 Are we fixing to make the same mistake again? 146
10 Surrounding the sacred : geometry and design of early mound groups as meaning and function 162
11 Crossing the symbolic Rubicon in the Southeast 214
12 Explaining sociopolitical complexity in the foraging adaptations of the southeastern United States : the roles of demography, kinship, and ecology in sociocultural evolution 234
13 The power of beneficent obligation in first mound-building societies 254
14 Archaic mounds and the archaeology of Southeastern tribal societies 270
15 Old mounds, ancient hunter-gatherers, and modern archaeologists 300
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