Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Richard W. Jefferies

Abstract

The Green River region of western Kentucky has been a focus of Archaic period research since 1915. Currently, the region is playing an important role in discussions of Archaic hunter-gatherer cultural complexity. Unfortunately, many of the larger Green River sites contain several archaeological components ranging from the Early to Late Archaic periods. Understanding culture change requires that these multiple components somehow be sorted and addressed individually.

Detailed re-analyses of Works Progress Administration (WPA) era artifact collections from two archaeological sites in the Green River region – the Baker (15Mu12) and Chiggerville (15Oh1) shell middens – indicate that these sites are relatively isolated Middle and Late Archaic components, respectively. The relatively unmixed character of Baker and Chiggerville makes these sites excellent candidates for evaluating aspects of complexity during the Archaic.

After developing a theoretical basis for evaluating the relative complexity of the social organization of the Baker and Chiggerville site inhabitants on the basis of the material record they left behind, I employ detailed analyses of the bone, antler, and stone tools from these two sites to examine six microscalar aspects of complexity – technological organization, subsistence, specialization, leadership, communication networks, and exchange. These microscalar aspects of complexity all can be linked materially to the archaeological record of the Green River region and can be evaluated as proxies for changes in social organization among the hunter-gatherers who inhabited this region during the Middle and Late Archaic periods. Although the Baker assemblage indicated greater complexity in communication networks and certain proxies for leadership and technological organization, most indicators suggest that the Chiggerville site inhabitants were the more complexly organized group and were in the process of developing a tribal-like social formation. This research, therefore, tentatively supports the hypothesis of increasing complexity through time during the Archaic. However, marked differences in the technological strategies utilized by the Baker and Chiggerville site inhabitants indicates these groups may not have been historically related, thereby violating one of the primary assumptions of the project. If this alternative hypothesis is confirmed through additional research, then no conclusions concerning change through time can be derived from this study.

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