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Social, political, and economic institutions covary with one another in heterogenous ways across space and time. Social Network Analysis (SNA) offers a set of analytical tools and conceptual frameworks that have allowed for formal comparisons of interactions, affiliations, and relationships in reconstructing historical trajectories of institutional change. Although archaeologists have made full use of a range of metrics that describe the structural variation of social networks, formal approaches to analyzing the covariance of networks, and the institutions that structured networks in the past, remain undertheorized. In most cases, descriptive metrics are compared between networks built from different datasets or networks separated in time. Using quadratic assignment procedure (QAP) correlations to compare matrices of archaeological data, I draw on a ceramic dataset of approximately 350,000 sherds from the Southern Appalachian region to investigate how decisions related to manufacture choice and to stylistic design covaried with one another between roughly AD 800 and 1650. I explore how material attributes may or may not vary independently of one another and what that means for our analyses of the institutions they reflect. The results contribute to broader comparative analyses of institutional change and perennial discussions of social evolution.
Democratic cooperation is a particularly complex type of arrangement that requires attendant institutions to ensure that the problems inherent in collective action do not subvert the public good. It is perhaps due to this complexity that historians, political scientists, and others generally associate the birth of democracy with the emergence of so-called states and center it geographically in the “West,” where it then diffused to the rest of the world. We argue that the archaeological record of the American Southeast provides a case to examine the emergence of democratic institutions and to highlight the distinctive ways in which such long-lived institutions were—and continue to be—expressed by Native Americans. Our research at the Cold Springs site in northern Georgia, USA, provides important insight into the earliest documented council houses in the American Southeast. We present new radiocarbon dating of these structures along with dates for the associated early platform mounds that place their use as early as cal AD 500. This new dating makes the institution of the Muskogean council, whose active participants have always included both men and women, at least 1,500 years old, and therefore one of the most enduring and inclusive democratic institutions in world history.
An enduring problem in North American archaeology concerns the nature of the transition between the Clovis and Folsom Paleoindian complexes in the West. Traditional models indicate a temporal hiatus between the two complexes implying that Folsom was a population replacement for Clovis. Alternatively, if Folsom was an innovation that occurred within Clovis populations and subsequently spread, we would expect to see a temporal overlap. Here, we test these hypotheses using high-quality radiocarbon dates and Bayesian statistics to infer the temporal boundaries of the complexes. We show that the Folsom complex initially appears between 12,900 and 12,740 cal BP, whereas Clovis disappears between 12,720 and12,490 cal BP. Therefore, Folsom may have appeared about 200 years before Clovis disappeared, and so the two complexes likely co-occurred in the West for nearly eight generations. This finding suggests that Folsom was a successful adaptive innovation that diffused through the western Clovis population, eventually going to fixation over multiple generations.
As the use of large-scale radiocarbon datasets becomes more common and applications of Bayesian chronological modeling become a standard aspect of archaeological practice, it is imperative that we grow a community of both effective users and consumers. Indeed, research proposals and publications now routinely employ Bayesian chronological modeling to estimate age ranges such as statistically informed starts, ends, and spans of archaeological phenomena. Although advances in interpretive techniques have been widely adopted, sampling strategies and determinations of appropriate sample sizes for radiocarbon data remain generally underdeveloped. As chronological models are only as robust as the information we feed into them, formal approaches to assessing the validity of model criteria and the appropriate number of radiocarbon dates deserve attention. In this article, through a series of commonly encountered scenarios, we present easy-to-follow instructions for running simulations that should be used to inform the design and construction of chronological models.
Hernando de Soto's expedition through the southeastern United States between 1539 and 1543 is often regarded as a watershed moment for the collapse of Indigenous societies across the region. Historical narratives have proposed that extreme depopulation as a result of early contact destabilized Indigenous economies, politics, networks, and traditions. Although processes of depopulation and transformation were certainly set in motion by this and earlier colonial encounters, the timing, temporality, and heterogeneous rhythms of postcontact Indigenous histories remain unclear. Through the integration of radiocarbon and archaeological data from the Mississippian earthen platform mound at Dyar (9GE5) in central Georgia, we present a case of Indigenous endurance and resilience in the Oconee Valley that has long been obfuscated by materially based chronologies and typologies. Bayesian chronological modeling suggests that Indigenous Mississippian traditions persisted for up to 130 years beyond contact with European colonizers. We argue that advances in modeling radiocarbon dates, along with meaningful consultation/collaboration with descendant communities, can contribute to efforts that move us beyond a reliance on materially based chronologies that can distort and erase Indigenous histories.
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