The Mississippian archaeological record on the Malden Plain, Southeast Missouri: local variability in evolutionary perspective
This is a study of Middle Mississippi expressions on the Malden Plain, Southeast Missouri. Middle Mississippi is recognized as a highly variable culture-historic unit of eastern North America during which late prehistoric populations reached their classic expression. In this research, the explanation of variability in the archaeological record is cast in an evolutionary framework. Evolutionary theory generates a model in which change is viewed as the differential persistence of alternative traits through time. This model has two important implications for examining archaeological materials and the kind of interpretive frameworks that must be built to do so. First, variation is placed in a causal role in that change arises from empirical variation to produce change. Second, evolutionary explanations account for functional traits. These implications are used to generate expectations for Mississippian assemblages from the Malden Plain. Models regarding chronology and settlement patterns that have been applied to adjacent regions of the Central Mississippi Valley and extrapolated to the Malden Plain are also evaluated.The results of this analysis indicate that chronological trajectories can be expected to diverge from one local area to another, especially when functional variables are considered. Although stylistic sequences on the Malden Plain correspond generally to those developed for adjacent regions, there are important divergences which reflect the geographic isolation of this area.This analysis also indicates that classic Mississippian settlement pattern models do not account for the full range of variation, at least for the Malden Plain. Here, settlement configuration is seen as a response to local scale factors that are not accommodated by these models. Furthermore, inferences regarding regional integration and differential site function on the basis of sizes of population aggregates, nucleation, and mounds should be reconsidered. These features of Mississippian settlement patterns appear to have been components within a more flexible systemic context.
- Anthropology