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Mound A is the largest platform mound at the Angel site (12VG1), a Middle Mississippian town along the Ohio River in southwestern Indiana, and consists of an upper and lower platform joined by an offset conical peak. Solid-earth cores, geophysical data, and 14C ages indicate that mound construction began at 900 B.P. by stacking 10–15 cm-thick turf blocks two meters high at the junction of the upper-lower platform and that by 890 B.P. the upper platform was built to nearly its full 8m height. The dates from Mound A are among the earliest recorded from the site, which implies that earthwork construction coincided with the initial occupation of the site and was among the first construction tasks undertaken. Cultural features associated with a structure partly buried under the conical offset on the upper platform of Mound A yielded 14C ages of 750–520 B.P., which show that the upper platform surface was probably used throughout occupation. As also occurred on Mound F (the only other platform mound investigated at the site), the Mound A structure was destroyed and covered with a fresh layer of fill just before site abandonment. This final filling episode to cap the mounds may have been part of a "ceremonial closing" of the site. The youngest dates from the structures buried on Mounds A and F, as well as others across the site, suggest that the Angel site was essentially abandoned by 500 B.P., which also corresponds with the abandonment of Mississippian sites throughout the region.
I am in general agreement with Professor Johnson's main points. To his and the editor's question, ‘is there archaeological theory?’, His answer is ‘yes and no’. This ambiguous but accurate answer can be divided variously. The first category would be archaeological theory per se, which would encompass the work and thought from that of Nicholas Steno in the 17th century to that of Michael Schiffer (2002) today. It would be about the natural transformations of ‘deposits’. Next there would be theories about the transformation of natural materials into the more or less durable remains that comprise archaeological ‘data’ – the stuff of everyday lives. Again, work of Michael Schiffer (2001) and Daniel Miller (1998) comes to mind. They and a long list of contemporary archaeologists deploy theory on behalf of the understanding of the creation of things that build the human habitat. Broader use of theory comes with the deployment of frameworks from demography to demonology and ecology to ethics that are used to structure historical and anthropological questions that might be answered with archaeological remains. Each selection of a theoretical position entails one or another metaphysical commitment about what comprises ‘data’ and ‘evidence’ and what constitutes a proper explanation. In this regard Professor Johnson asks, does archaeology indiscriminately adopt and apply various philosophical positions without proper regard for their extent, implications and conditions for application? His answer is yes, certainly, and to our disadvantage. As Christopher Chippindale and I have noted on several occasions, archaeology treats philosophical traditions a bit like a Chinese menu or perhaps the contents of a supermarket: the archaeologist takes one from column A and another from column B, and a whole bunch of stuff from the dairy aisle and more from the fruits and vegetables section. Not only is this not kosher – one does not mix dairy and Derrida – but the selections are radically contradictory and sometimes even incoherent.
These books are about time: Maya cosmological time, measured by a multiplicity of eternal cyclical calendars, and our time, measured in mips (millions of computer instructions per second). One springs from an often-ending but eternal narrative; the other is expressed in differential equations and the language of systems analysis. One signals the complete rupture of an intellectual frontier and the birth of research tradition; the other seems the ultimate expression of a mature analytical tradition that is temporarily on the wane. One is anchored in Maya historical consciousness, the other in contemporary ecological anthropology. As such, one focuses on sequences of events judged important by the Maya themselves, the other on the cumulative implications of events that went unperceived by the Maya, even after their world was destroyed. Both demolish the ‘myth’ of the Maya as docile theocrats who spent their time cultivating their swiddens and their rituals. Both are contributions to our history of the Maya. In the final words of Schele and Miller: Maya ‘material culture was encoded with information about the nature of the world and the history of man. Although these messages were never intended for us, they speak across the centuries; once again we can utter the names of their kings and remember their actions. We do not share their beliefs, but we can perceive what they believed’ (p. 305). One can hope that we get it more or less right this time.
The evolutionary stage designated chiefdom or ranked society is examined for its utility in archaeological research. The concept of redistribution is abandoned as an indicator of chiefdoms. A cybernetic model of chiefdoms is presented, and measures of mortuary differentiation, ritual-regulatory networks, subsistence autonomy, and part-time craft specialization are proposed as indicators of this type of socio-political organization.
Analysis of differential distribution of mortuary artifacts from the major site units at Moundville and the Pickwick Reservoir in northern Alabama has yielded structural similarities and differences. The occurrence of certain classes of artifacts, symbolic of high status positions, is limited to a restricted number of individuals interred in platform mounds. These artifacts are not found with individuals buried in the cemeteries either at Moundville or in surrounding sites. In turn, within the cemeteries and platform mounds there is observed differentiation and regularity in and between classes of individuals in terms of skeletal orientation and mortuary treatment. The model suggested from the archaeological remains is one of a complexly ranked and functionally
specialized politico-religious organization as part of this cultural system.
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