A TECHNICAL SUMMARY OF
The prehistory of Georgia begins sometime before 9000 b.c. and ends with the de Soto entrada
of a.d. 1540. During this time,
major changes took place in the societies that occupied this portion of the
Southeast—changes which are documented in the archaeological record (see
Summary Table page). This document summarizes the technological, economic,
social, and political processes that unfolded over the millennia since humans
first inhabited the region.
Paleoindian Period (ca. 12,000–8000 b.c.)
The Paleoindian period marks the beginning of human
occupation in the New World. Exactly when the first human populations
permanently settled the western hemisphere is uncertain; most Americanist
archaeologists believe it was sometime between 20,000 and 14,000 years ago,
during the last stages of the Pleistocene glaciation. The earliest securely
dated Paleoindian site is in Monte Verde, Chile, where dates as early as ca.
11,800 b.c. have been obtained
(Dillehay 1989). The end of the Paleoindian period coincides with the
Pleistocene/Holocene transition and in most areas of the Southeast is estimated
to be ca. 8000 b.c.
By 8000 b.c.
environmental conditions were approaching those that exist today. North of 33°
“patchy” enclaves of xeric boreal forest/parkland vegetational communities were
gradually replaced by widespread stands of mesic oak-hickory forests. This
forest type lasted until large-scale Afro/Euro-American agriculture and
construction severely modified the landscape. South of that parallel, the
oak-hickory canopy was present much earlier (Delcourt and Delcourt 1985). The
project area lies just north of the postulated vegetational interface (33°40’
N) and, given the coarse-grained nature of this reconstruction, it is not
possible from the available data to determine whether the oak-hickory regime
was present in the area during most or all of the Paleoindian period, or
whether there was a change from the boreal forest/parkland regime to
oak-hickory during that time.
The Paleoindian lithic tool kit was based on
a highly refined flake and blade technology. Examples of Paleoindian lithic
tool types include unspecialized flake tools, formal side and end scrapers, gravers,
denticulates, specialized hafted unifacial knives, large bifacial knives, and
specialized lanceolate projectile points, which were sometimes “fluted.” The
best known of these is the Clovis point, the earliest recognized projectile
point type in the western hemisphere (dating 9800–9000 b.c.). Clovis variants have been found from Canada to the
southern tip of South America.
variation in projectile point morphology began to emerge in regions of the
Southeast by about 9000 b.c.,
probably due to restricted movement and the formation of loosely defined social
networks and habitual use areas (Anderson 1995; Anderson et al. 1992). These
new forms include the Cumberland, Suwannee, Simpson, Beaver Lake, and Quad
types (Anderson et al. 1990; Justice 1987:17–43; Milanich and Fairbanks 1980).
significant wood, bone, and antler technology was present as well. These
organic items do not preserve well in the acidic soils that cover much of the
Southeast, and they are rarely found in such contexts. However, at sites where
they have been preserved, primarily in Florida, it is clear that organic media
such as wood, bone, and antler were very important. These materials were
manufactured into projectile points, foreshafts, leisters, awls, and needles,
to name just a few tool categories (Milanich and Fairbanks 1980: Figures 3, 5,
views of the Paleoindian subsistence economy were based on observations from a
series of sites in the western United States where Paleoindian artifacts,
particularly large, lanceolate, “fluted” points, were recovered in direct
association with the remains of several species of now extinct Pleistocene
megafauna. Initial interpretations of Paleoindian subsistence suggested that
these early inhabitants focused primarily on hunting such large mammals as
mammoth, mastodon, bison, ground sloth, giant armadillo, tapir, horse, wild
pig, and caribou. Resources such as arboreal seed and nut crops as well as
small mammals, birds, and fish were, until recently, assumed to have been minor
of the striking similarity in Paleoindian technological organization that
pervaded most regions of the western hemisphere until ca. 8500 b.c., the large game–oriented
subsistence model devised from the western United States evidence was initially
assumed to have applied to all Paleoindian economic systems, including those
associated with groups in Georgia. However, archaeologists working in Georgia
have yet to document a clear association between Paleoindian tools and the remains
of displaced and extinct animal species known to have been present in the state
as late as 11,000–10,200 b.p.—mastodon,
bison, giant ground sloth, and giant armadillo, for example (Holman
the past 15 years there has been a reevaluation of Paleoindian subsistence,
particularly for eastern North America, based upon data from sites such as the
Meadowcroft Rockshelter in southwestern Pennsylvania. Cushman’s (1982:207–220)
analysis of the Paleoindian occupation at Meadowcroft Rockshelter suggests that
the occupants were geared toward the type of “broad spectrum” resource
utilization traditionally associated with the subsequent Archaic period. Her
examination of the botanical remains indicates that a variety of leafy plants,
seeds, nuts, and berries (Cushman 1982:207–220) were important dietary
Paleoindian subsistence is also indicated by evidence from Florida. At Little
Salt Spring, an important underwater site in Sarasota County, Florida, a
variety of smaller mammals, fish, plants, and reptiles (including a now extinct
form of giant land tortoise) have been shown to be constituents of the
Paleoindian diet in that region (Clausen et al. 1979).
is very little evidence of resource exploitation in the littoral by Paleoindian
peoples living in the Southeast. This very likely is because of site
obfuscation and destruction caused by coastal submergence during the Holocene,
and not because the resources these ecozones contained were not utilized (e.g.,
Dunbar et al. 1988, 1991).
summary, new perspectives on Paleoindian subsistence economy emphasize the
utilization of a broader spectrum of ecotones and resources and deemphasize the
degree to which Paleoindians relied on large-game hunting for sustenance.
the Eastern Woodlands, the majority of Paleoindian sites consist largely of
diffuse lithic scatters at open locations, with more intensive occupations in
rockshelter or cave settings. No conclusive evidence of permanent structures or
long-term encampments has been located for this time period in the Southeast.
The majority of the Paleoindian data recovered in Georgia to date is derived
from surface scatters of projectile points and a small assortment of chipped
stone implements collected from settings in which the depositional integrity
has been compromised. However, a limited amount of data has been recovered from
intact contexts (Anderson and Schuldenrein 1985; Elliott and Doyon 1981;
Gresham et al. 1985; Kelly 1938; O’Steen et al. 1983; O’Steen et al. 1986).
models of early Paleoindian settlement patterning have been advanced in the
past quarter-century (see Anderson et al. 1992 for an overview). Some are
concerned with Paleoindians in general (Anderson 1990a; Kelly and Todd 1988;
Martin 1973), and others with regional trends (Anderson 1995; Gardner 1983;
Morse and Morse 1983). Most are mechanistic models that portray specific
economic strategies as primary reasons for how Paleoindians settled upon and
utilized the landscape. Each is slightly different in its focus, with primacy
placed on one of three major influences: (1) the need to maintain access to
prominent, high-quality raw material sources (e.g., Gardner 1983); (2) a
preference for exploiting specific habitual use zones and staging areas (e.g.,
Anderson 1995); or (3) a nomadic or seminomadic existence dictated to a large
degree by the movements and availability of large game (e.g., Kelly and Todd
attempt to review and assess each model is impractical in this context;
however, there is a general consensus among archaeologists involved in
Paleoindian research regarding Paleoindian settlement. Groups were probably
each comprised of four or five extended families and counted 25–50 individuals.
Marriage was almost certainly exogamous and residence was likely extralocal.
This would have assured that primary social groups remained small enough to
remain economically sustainable but linked with a larger, interactive social
network that provided information, cooperation, and mates of suitable kin distance.
social groups very likely met at predetermined locations with other groups at
specific times of the year to cooperate in large-scale food acquisition (nut
harvesting, fishing, shellfish gathering, etc.) and/or lithic resource
extraction, as well as to exchange information, renew or create alliances,
fulfill social obligations, find mates, and perform rituals. For most of the
year, however, primary groups appear to have dispersed into loosely defined
habitual use areas. They probably exploited a wide variety of economic
resources, moving often to take advantage of seasonal resources. It is also
possible that they periodically established logistical base camps and used them
as staging areas for special activity forays.
end of the Paleoindian period (ca. 8000 b.c.)
is associated with the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age and the onslaught of new
environmental conditions, which influenced how humans organized their society
and coped with the environmental and social pressures that came about during the
climatic transition. New settlement and subsistence patterns were established
and regional technological innovations were developed. These trends are
associated with the subsequent Archaic culture period.
transition from Paleoindian to Archaic is loosely defined; in the Southeast the
chronological interface ranges from ca. 8000 to 6500 b.c. In Georgia, the transition has been arbitrarily
designated as 8000 b.c. In
addition to rapid changes in environmental conditions that were nearing
completion by 8000 b.c. (Delcourt
and Delcourt 1985), and the changes in utilitarian technology that were
developed to cope with those changes, population demography and diversity in
social organization distinguish the Archaic experience. A tripartite scheme
dividing the Archaic period into Early, Middle, and Late subperiods is
traditionally used to demarcate some of the important developments of this
time. It should be emphasized, however, that these subdivisions are heuristic
devices; changes were more gradual and non-uniform across the Southeast than a
discussion with these limitations intimates.
Archaic (ca. 8000–6000 b.c.).
Tool assemblages associated with the Early Archaic period are similar to those
of the preceding Paleoindian period, although a variety of groundstone tools
first appear at this time. Notched and/or stemmed hafted bifaces replace
lanceolate forms by 8000 b.c. in
the Southeast. Big Sandy, Palmer-Kirk series, Kirk Corner Notched, Kirk
Stemmed, and several bifurcate styles are the Early Archaic types known in the
project area. Wear patterns suggest that these tools were used for activities
such as killing, butchering, and skinning game, as well as woodworking.
Early Archaic lifeway is represented by social, settlement, and subsistence
strategies designed to take advantage of the biotic diversity of the early
Holocene environment, and also to cope with movement restrictions placed upon
some Early Archaic populations because of increased population. Environmental
conditions were approaching those that the first Europeans encountered in the
sixteenth century. Hardwood primary forests and extensive palustrine swamps
provided large and small game as well as a variety of plants for medicine,
subsistence, clothing, and shelter. Rivers were used as travel corridors and
provided fresh water, fish, and shellfish. The only areas of low productivity
would have been the pine stands that began to emerge in the uplands by about
6000 b.c. (Delcourt and Delcourt
population apparently increased dramatically, the social landscape became more
complex. Several models of Early Archaic social organization have been proposed
for the region (Anderson et al. 1992: Part II; Anderson and Hanson 1988);
again, this is not the proper context to explore and assess the merits of each.
In general, it is hypothesized that Early Archaic societies in Georgia and the
Carolinas were organized into band-sized communities (population 25–50) whose
main territory surrounded a segment of a major river (the Ocmulgee, for
example). These bands are postulated to have been organized into larger
“macrobands” that gathered on special occasions for community food harvesting,
rituals, and the exchange of mates and information. These activities probably took
place at or near the heads of rivers close to the Fall Line, or at the mouth of
the rivers on the coast. The similarity in certain tool forms throughout and
across drainages—projectile points, for example—and the apparent movement of
raw materials over long distances support this argument.
Archaic settlement patterns are not well understood, but two types of
settlements have been especially noted: small, short-term “camps” and large,
densely occupied areas that appear to have been base camps or congregation
sites (see above). As before, high-quality cherts were accessible and were the
raw material of choice for stone tools. Also, specific point types, such as
Palmer-Kirk series and bifurcate styles, were widely distributed across the
Southeast and the Eastern Woodlands. This suggests that territories were large
and/or that the exchange of information, ideas, and material culture took place
frequently and over large distances.
Archaic (ca. 6000–3000 b.c.). As in the final stages of the Early Archaic,
climax hardwood forests were established in the lowlands, and upland pine
stands became mature and fairly widespread.
bifaces dated to this period include the Stanly and Morrow Mountain types, as
well as Benton and Guilford-like forms (MALA) that have not been formally
typed. Unremarkable quartz ovate hafted bifaces are common as well. Although
all of these are known to occur in Georgia, the Morrow Mountain styles are the
most frequently encountered diagnostic hafted bifaces in north and north-central
Georgia. Morrow Mountain hafted bifaces also occur in Middle Archaic contexts
on the coastal plain and coast, but in much smaller numbers.
Middle Archaic period tool kit was, for the most part, expedient and
manufactured from locally available raw materials. Quartz, which is ubiquitous
in northern Georgia, was the preferred source of lithic raw material in the
region during this period. Chert tools or debitage are not frequently
encountered in Middle Archaic contexts in northern Georgia. Compared to chert,
quartz is difficult to work, yields a dull edge, and requires frequent
resharpening. Chert was probably not used to any great extent because of
limited access to or knowledge of source areas. On the coastal plain and coast,
locally available chert was the preferred raw material for stone tool
Middle Archaic sites have been described as small, randomly distributed
occupations exhibiting very little intersite technological variability. Local
raw materials were used almost exclusively, and the vast majority of tools were
technologically expedient (Blanton and Sassaman 1989; Sassaman 1993a). In terms
of social organization, small hunting and gathering bands of 25–50 people
probably still formed the primary social and economic units. Residences were
moved frequently, subsistence was generalized, and social groups were small,
mobile, and likely coresidential. Long-term investments and social obligations
were probably kept to a minimum, insuring that there were very few restrictions
on group movement or fissioning (Sassaman 1993b).
contrast, large-scale tool production and intensive occupation characterize
many Middle Archaic habitations in the coastal plain, especially in the latter
half of the period (Sassaman 1988). This is likely due to the patchy
distribution of both lithic and organic resources in that region, as opposed to
the relatively homogeneous distribution of resources that characterized the
Georgia piedmont (Sassaman et al. 1990).
data is scarce, but it is assumed that a variety of interior floral and faunal
resources were exploited on both a general (e.g., white-tailed deer) and
seasonal (e.g., nuts, fish, and migratory waterfowl) basis. It is probable that
coastal and riverine resources—marine shellfish, freshwater shellfish, and
anadromous fish, for example—were exploited to some degree, but their economic
importance is unknown due to the lack of Middle Archaic components that can be
unequivocally associated with these types of remains. This void can be
partially attributed to coastal submergence and rising sea level, which has
inundated previously exposed coastline and obfuscated the importance of
littoral resources in this and earlier eras (Brooks et al. 1990).
Archaic (ca. 3000–1000 b.c.). The hafted biface most commonly
associated with the Late Archaic period in Georgia is the Savannah River point.
These point types are often very large (12+ cm in length is not uncommon) and
exhibit a straight stem, straight base, and triangular blade.
Late Archaic varieties are known by various names, such as Appalachian Stemmed,
Elora, Kiokee Creek, Ledbetter, Limestone, Otarre, and Paris Island (Bullen and
Greene 1970; Cambron and Hulse 1983; Chapman 1981; Coe 1964; Elliott 1994;
Harwood 1973; Keel 1976; Sassaman 1985; Whatley 1985). Except for the Ledbetter
hafted biface, which appears to have had a specialized function—it exhibits a
heavily reworked, asymmetrical blade—these latter type names are more a product
of parochial terminology than actual morphological differences; they all are
characterized by triangular blades, straight or slightly contracting stems, and
earliest ceramics in the region were tempered with fiber. According to
radiocarbon evidence obtained from Rabbit Mount, a Late Archaic shell midden
along the southern portion of the Savannah River in Allendale County, South
Carolina, this ceramic technology may have been introduced as early as 2500 b.c. (4465±95 b.p.). This date, and another of 4450±150 b.p., were obtained from wood charcoal
recovered from excavation levels containing fiber-tempered sherds (Stoltman
earliest ceramic-bearing components on the Georgia coast date to approximately
2200 b.c. (Sassaman 1993b). These components are also the oldest
known along the current Georgia coastline, so this evidence does not
necessarily demonstrate that coastal groups did not produce and use pottery
prior to 2200 b.c. Sea level rise
may have inundated earlier ceramic-bearing assemblages; ecological restrictions
may also have prevented humans from occupying the present-day coastline before
2200 b.c. (Sassaman 1993b:19).
Late Archaic ceramic sequence has been refined over the years and a detailed
chronology for both the interior and coastal zone has been developed. The
coastal sequence is known as the St. Simons phase, which is a term first used
by Holder (1938) to describe the Late Archaic ceramics he recovered during
excavations on St. Simons Island in the 1930s. Based on his extensive research
on Late Archaic ceramics from various sites along the Georgia and South
Carolina coasts, DePratter (1979) identified a time-transgressive trend in
surface decoration techniques that led him to divide St. Simons into two
subphases, St. Simons I and St. Simons II.
DePratter’s scheme, St. Simons I dates to ca. 2200–1700 b.c. This phase is characterized by the production of
fiber-tempered pottery with plain surfaces (DePratter 1979:114). St. Simons II
dates to ca. 1700–1000 b.c. The
ceramics produced in this era are also fiber-tempered and exhibit plain,
punctated, incised, incised and punctated, and grooved surface designs. Vessel
form is limited to simple bowls with round or flattened bases. Rims are
straight or slightly incurving, and the lip is rounded or flattened (DePratter
term Stallings Culture was introduced by Stoltman (1974) to describe the
material culture associated with Late Archaic populations residing in the
central Savannah River region. Stallings I was defined as a preceramic phase
that dated to the earliest part of the period (ca. 3000–2500 b.c.). The hallmark of Stallings II
(ca. 2500–1700 b.c.) was the
production of fiber-tempered pottery with plain surfaces. Stallings III lasted
from 1700 b.c. until the end of
the period (ca. 1000 b.c.), and
it is characterized by fiber-tempered vessels with plain, punctated, incised,
incised and punctated, and grooved surface treatments. Vessel form is limited
to the simple bowls discussed above.
close similarity between St. Simons I and II and Stallings II and III is
evident. Sassaman’s research has led him to refine the St. Simons and Stallings
ceramic series and incorporate them into a single chronological sequence. This
new chronology is provisionally defined as Group I, Group II, and Group III (Sassaman
1993b:102–110). Group I assemblages date to approximately 2500–1800 b.c. in the interior and 2200–1800 b.c. on the coast. Most of the pottery
manufactured in this era exhibits plain surfaces. When designs are present they
are usually simple and limited to a single simple-stamped, incised, or
punctated motif. Vessels are simple bowls with thickened and flanged lips.
II (ca. 1800–1400 b.c.) is
defined by a marked increase in decorated vessels. Incising, punctations, and
grooving are common surface treatments; simple stamping is almost absent,
however. Many vessels exhibit multiple design motifs. Wares with thickened and
flanged lips occur less often; by the end of the phase this technology is no
longer utilized. Vessel form is restricted to the simple bowl.
III dates to between ca. 1400 and 1000 b.c.
The ceramics produced in that era
exhibit plain, incised, punctated, and simple-stamped designs. Plain ceramics
were the most common; the relative frequency of decorated wares is much lower
than for Group II. Multiple design motifs are not evident. Plain vessels in
Group III can be distinguished from Group I wares by the absence of thickened
and flanged lips. Simple bowls continue to be the exclusive vessel form.
most intensively occupied Late Archaic site yet discovered in Georgia is on
Stallings Island, located in the Savannnah River in Columbia County (Bullen and
Greene 1970; Claflin 1931; Crusoe and DePratter 1976; Fairbanks 1942; Jones
1873). One type of bone tool found at Stallings Island is the bone “pin.” These
objects are intricately decorated and highly prized by artifact collectors.
Unfortunately, they were “mined” at the site until recent measures were taken
to prevent unauthorized access to the site. The mining has devastated the site;
large “potholes” and mining trenches have destroyed much of its integrity.
unfortunate circumstance notwithstanding, a great deal has been learned from
professional excavations at Stallings Island. Large quantities of projectile
points, drills, grooved axes, perforated soapstone slabs, and other formal
lithic, bone, and antler tools have been discovered. Plain and punctated
fiber-tempered ceramics, which bear the type name Stallings Island, have also
earliest Late Archaic levels at Stallings Island have been dated to between
2700 and 2450 b.c. (Williams
1968). These basal levels lacked ceramics but, among many other tool types,
contained “classic” Savannah River projectile points (Coe 1964). Subsequent
excavations elsewhere in the region have shown that these large “classic”
Savannah River points are associated with the incipient use of fiber-tempered
ceramics (Elliott 1994:370). Large Savannah River bifaces were often
manufactured from metavolcanic rock; some assemblages—from the Mill Branch,
Toliver, and Chase sites, for example—are dominated by points of this material
(Ledbetter 1991, 1994; Stanyard and Stoops 1995).
particular form of Late Archaic technology is associated with a suite of traits
that are spatially and chronologically specific (ca. 2200–1600 b.c.). In the Savannah River region, it
was manifest between ca. 2200 and 1850 b.c.,
and is referred to as the Mill Branch phase (Elliott 1994; Elliott et al. 1994;
Ledbetter 1994; Stanyard 1997; Stanyard and Stoops 1995). As the Stallings
influence took hold in the Savannah River drainage by 1850 b.c., Mill Branch people moved out of
the area and permanently settled into the surrounding region. Mill Branch
culture persisted until ca. 1500 b.c.
in those places. In order to accentuate the geographical and chronological
separation between the two “episodes” of the Mill Branch phase, a recent
proposal has suggested that the latter expression be designated the Black
Shoals phase (Stanyard 2000).
ceramics have been dated as early as 2500 b.c.
in the Southeast (Stoltman 1966; Sassaman 1993b), they do not appear at
Stallings Island until about 1730 b.c.
Projectile point styles associated with the ceramic levels at Stallings Island
are smaller than Savannah River point types and tend to have slightly
contracting, rather than straight, stems (Bullen and Greene 1970). Beginning
about this time, the use of ceramics intensified in the region. Elliott (1994)
refers to this technological expression of the Late Archaic period as the
Lovers Lane phase and frames it between approximately 1800 and 1350 b.c.
soapstone vessels, a hallmark of the Late Archaic in the interior of Georgia,
are almost absent in the archeological record at Stallings Island specifically
(n = 1) (Elliott et al. 1994) and in
the central Savannah River valley in general. This is despite the existence of
several nearby sources of soapstone that were used to obtain raw material for
perforated slabs, gorgets, and bannerstones.
Late Archaic groups surrounding the central Savannah River valley, on the other
hand, preferred soapstone for bowls and other containers. Steatite bowl
fragments are common at Late Archaic sites in these areas, and fiber-tempered
ceramics are uncommon (Sassaman 1991, 1993b).
discrepancy between sites that contain ceramics and those that contain
soapstone vessels may not reflect an absence of technological knowledge
concerning ceramics, but actions that are politically, economically, and
socially motivated instead (Sassaman 1991, 1993b). New radiocarbon data
obtained from soot adhering to soapstone sherds found in the region supports
this contention; no dates precede the known or suspected date for the local
adoption of pottery (Ken Sassaman, personal communication 1996).
Late Archaic period witnessed several significant changes that anticipated the
cultural developments of the following Woodland period. Information gathered
from hundreds of Late Archaic period sites in northern and central Georgia
presents a fairly clear picture of demography and settlement. Seasonal
single-household occupations and special activity camps related to those
occupations dotted the uplands throughout north-central and northeast Georgia,
as well as the western Carolinas, while large and intensively occupied
special-purpose aggregation and multiseasonal village sites are associated with
the central Savannah River basin.
Archaic architecture is not well understood, for only a few examples have been
investigated in northern Georgia. Excavations at 9WR4, in Warren County,
Georgia, discovered a Late Archaic pit house measuring approximately 4 x 5 m
(Ledbetter 1991:200). It was subrectangular in plan and approximately 35 cm
deep (Ledbetter 1991:200). Large corner posts and a few wall posts defined the
perimeter. A large hearth area was discovered in the eastern portion of the
structure. It is interpreted as a hearth and earth oven that may have been
partitioned (Ledbetter 1991:201); three “caches” of debitage surrounded the
structures associated with the Late Archaic occupation of the Lovers Lane site
have been documented (Elliott et al. 1994). All were subrectangular or oval in
plan; only one structure (Structure 6) was determined to be a pit house similar
to the one at 9WR4. The smallest structure measured 5 x 8 m and the two largest
8 x 8 m. None of the structures contained discernible hearths. Pit features
used as storage or discard pits for quartz debitage were found in the vicinity
of Structure 4, but the association is suspect (Elliott et al. 1994:335).
terms of subsistence, a wide variety of large and small mammals, reptiles
(including sea turtle), birds, and amphibians have been recovered in Late
Archaic contexts. Shellfish were very important to Late Archaic populations
that inhabited and/or exploited the coast and major drainage systems, as
evidenced by the large shell middens at Stallings Island (Claflin 1931), Bilbo
(Williams 1968), St. Simons Island (Holder 1938), and elsewhere. The bone
fishhooks and foreshafts recovered at these and other sites indicate that
fishing was also important.
broad spectrum of plant materials is assumed to have been used for sustenance,
medicine, fabric, and construction. There is no conclusive evidence of
horticulture in Late Archaic societies in Georgia. It is possible that the
growth of certain useful opportunistic plants, such as weeds containing starchy
seeds (e.g., Chenopodium sp.), and
possibly cucurbits (Cucurbita sp.),
was encouraged by clearing overstory and not disturbing established communities
of these plant types.
end of the Archaic period and advent of the Woodland era is an arbitrary
demarcation created by archaeologists. It is a consensus that recognizes the
widespread adoption of an improved ceramic technology by 1000 b.c.
improvement in ceramic technology that became widely available by 1000 b.c. in the Southeast greatly altered
food storage and preparation capabilities, though it did not have an immediate
effect on subsistence. Throughout most of the Woodland period, subsistence
strategies were a continuation of earlier hunter-fisher-gatherer ways;
cultigens did not begin to play an important role until approximately a.d. 900.
Georgia, the nature of Woodland peoples’ ideological and nonsubsistence-related
economic systems are more accessible to modern researchers than those of
earlier peoples because they involved activities, architecture, and artifacts
that are more visible in the archaeological record. For example, large mounds
associated with mortuary, ceremonial, and status-related domestic domains first
appear by about a.d. 1. Also,
large quantities of magico-religious and prestige goods manufactured from such
durable media as stone and unsmelted metal were deposited in and around these
mounds beginning at approximately this time. The Woodland period also witnessed
intensified participation in long-distance trade and exchange in exotic
materials such as copper, mica, obsidian, and marine shell.
introduction of very small triangular projectile points (<1–3 cm in length)
around a.d. 600 suggests that bow
and arrow technology was adopted in the southeastern United States at about
became more refined, and regional differentiation of wares, particularly with
respect to temper, paste, and surface decoration, became manifest during the
period. Woodland cultures in the interior of northern Georgia are often
discussed and categorized by reference to established ceramic typologies and
related developments. Common Woodland ceramic types include Dunlap Fabric
Impressed; Cartersville Simple Stamped; Cartersville Check Stamped; Swift Creek
Complicated Stamped; Swift Creek Plain; Napier Complicated Stamped; Woodstock
Plain; Woodstock Incised, Woodstock Complicated Stamped; Vining Plain; and
Vining Simple Stamped.
projectile point styles attributable to Woodland developments north of the Fall
Line in Georgia include small-stemmed specimens, large and small triangular
types, and miscellaneous notched specimens.
Woodland period, like the preceding Archaic, is divided into three
subperiods—Early, Middle, and Late—based upon major demarcations in general
social patterns. As with the Archaic period, it should be emphasized that
changes were more gradual and nonuniform across the Southeast than the
Woodland (ca. 1000–300 b.c.).
Early Woodland occupations are thought to reflect a more or less unchanged
continuation of Late Archaic lifeways, except for the widespread adoption of a
much improved ceramic technology. Dunlap Fabric Impressed pottery, which is
associated most closely with the Early Woodland, is tempered with sand or
crushed quartz, and the vessel exteriors usually are decorated entirely with
impressions of fabric or basketry (Caldwell 1957:166). The most common vessel
form is a large, conoidal-based jar. Toward the end of the Early Woodland
period, another ceramic type, Cartersville Check Stamped, was manufactured and
used along with the earlier Dunlap Fabric Impressed wares (Caldwell 1957:287).
Cartersville Check Stamped, as the name implies, is characterized by a checked
design stamped on the exterior of the vessels. Vessel types include large jars
and, for the first time, smaller bowls. These vessels often had small podal
supports on their bases that are termed tetrapods. Cartersville Simple Stamped
ceramics began to be produced at about the same time as check stamped vessels,
though in the Early Woodland they were a minority ware. Vessel morphology and
technology are identical to those of check stamped vessels.
diagnostic tool that first appeared in the Early Woodland is the triangular
hafted biface. This tool form was popular throughout the Southeast until the
Contact period. Early Woodland specimens are generally large and sometimes have
incurvate bases or small “ears.” These latter two types are known as Yadkin and
Eared Yadkin, respectively. Small, stemmed hafted bifaces were also produced
during this era. Although various names have been given to these types, such as
Coosa, New Market, and Otarre, the terms are basically parochial in nature and
do not reflect significant technological differences.
a popular raw material in the Late Archaic period, was reduced to a very minor
constituent of the overall Early Woodland artifact assemblage. It was used to
make utilitarian items such as line weights, gorgets, and works of decorative
or ritualistic art.
were built primarily in the floodplains of large to medium-sized rivers.
Archaeologically, they occur as isolated entities (Bowen 1989; Wood and
Ledbetter 1990) or in concentrations along river stretches (Stanyard and Pietak
1997). Hunting, fishing, seasonal foraging (especially in the fall), and lithic
reduction were conducted in the uplands, on levees, and at river shoals
(Stanyard and Baker 1992; Stanyard and Pietak 1997). Burial mounds, a hallmark
of Middle and Late Woodland mortuary practices, appear to be lacking in the
variety of nut crops, especially acorns, were a major subsistence preference
during the Early Woodland in north Georgia. Nut processing and roasting pits
are much more common at Early Woodland sites than at any other type of site in
the region (Bowen 1989; Wood and Ledbetter 1990). The remainder of the subsistence
base encompassed a broad spectrum of species acquired by hunting, fishing, and
the Georgia coast and on the coastal plain, the onset of the Early Woodland
period is recognized archaeologically by the appearance of Refuge ceramics.
This pottery complex was defined by Waring (1968) based on data obtained from
the Refuge site, which is on the southern South Carolina coast. Waring
described four types of surface decorations associated with the Refuge ceramic
series: Refuge Punctate, Refuge Incised, Refuge Simple Stamped, and Refuge
Dentate. These surface treatments are still used as diagnostic criteria for
identifying Early Woodland occupations in the region.
stamping was a technique developed in the Late Archaic but was used as a decorative
motif until the end of the Middle Woodland. As a result, the sand/grit-tempered
wares associated with the Early Woodland (Refuge) and Middle Woodland
(Deptford) periods are difficult to distinguish. Waring (1968:200) noted that
Refuge simple stamping tended to be haphazard and that the lips of these
vessels were sometimes notched. Deptford wares, by contrast, primarily exhibit
parallel or crossed designs that were applied with more control.
stratigraphic evidence obtained from 38AK157, which is on the Aiken Plateau at
the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, South Carolina, concurs with Waring’s
supposition that Refuge simple stamping can be distinguished from Deptford on
the basis of the decorating technique (Anderson in Sassaman et al. 1990). Based
on stratigraphic analysis, Anderson (Sassaman et al. 1990) observed that there
were proportionally more sherds with V-shaped grooves than U-shaped grooves. In
addition, parallel and evenly crossed designs were present in proportionally
larger numbers in the upper levels, while sloppy designs were more prevalent in
the lower levels. It is suggested that the earlier, more haphazard designs were
applied with a dowel or stick, while the more controlled designs were applied
with a carved paddle (Anderson in Sassaman et al. 1990). Since the
check-stamped pottery associated with Deptford was definitely created with a
carved paddle, Sassaman postulates that simple stamping characterized by the
even, U-shaped groove is associated with Deptford, while the haphazard V-shaped
design is associated with Refuge ceramics. Although the data from 38AK157 is
useful when dealing with large assemblages, distinguishing between Refuge and
Deptford simple-stamped designs is an imprecise exercise when sample sizes are
ceramics from sites on the Georgia coastal plain and coast are usually
grit-tempered and generally have a very sandy paste. Grog tempering occurs in a
minority of wares found in the South Carolina coastal plain (Anderson 1982),
but is dominant on the Refuge series of the Santee River (Espenshade and
Brockington 1989). The predominant vessel form is a hemispherical bowl with a
rounded base. Deep, straight-sided jars were also produced but in lesser
numbers. Rims are incurving or straight; the lips are rounded or squared and
are occasionally decorated (DePratter 1979). Punctations and incising sometimes
occur on vessel interiors (Anderson in Sassaman et al. 1990)
the exception of ceramics, very little is known about Refuge material culture.
Diagnostic lithics associated with the Refuge phase consist of small, stemmed
hafted bifaces that are similar to the varieties manufactured in the later part
of the Late Archaic period. Lithics occur in low frequencies at Refuge sites,
which may indicate that the lithic sources in the interior were not easily
accessible (Hanson and DePratter 1985). Another reason lithics are not
abundant, one that may or may not be directly related to the availability of
lithic material, is the ready accessibility of shell. Shell and bone tools are
commonly associated with components of this age (Lepionka 1983).
Refuge phase has been divided into subphases based on temporal differences in
the popularity of ceramic surface design types. DePratter (1979) describes
three subphases, Refuge I, Refuge II, and Refuge III. In his scheme, Refuge I
dates to ca. 1100–1000 b.c. and
is defined by punctate and incised wares. Dentate stamping appears
approximately 1000–900 b.c., and
the appearance of that design demarcates Refuge II. According to DePratter,
Refuge III (ca. 900–400 b.c.) is
defined by the manufacture of linear check and check-stamped wares. Plain and
simple-stamped pottery was manufactured throughout all three subphases.
(Sassaman et al. 1990) argues that, given the general lack of radiocarbon
dates, DePratter’s chronology is too refined. In addition, there is no
conclusive evidence that linear check and check-stamped designs were in use as
early as 900 b.c. Sassaman (1993c:190) suggests that only two subphases are recognizable
within the Refuge ceramic complex. Refuge I dates to ca. 1000–800 b.c. and is defined by Refuge Punctate
and Refuge Dentate designs. Refuge II is characterized by the absence of
punctate and dentate surface designs and by the emergence of plain and
simple-stamped surfaces as the primary design types. According to this
chronology, Refuge II occurred between approximately 800 and 600 b.c.
social transformations at the end of the Late Archaic on the coastal plain
resulted in population decentralization (Sassaman 1991, 1993c; Stanyard 1997).
Small groups disengaged from their social obligations to the larger community
and created dispersed year-round settlements. People that produced Refuge
ceramics settled the fall zone uplands, the lower coastal plain interior, and
the coast. Upland and interior sites tend to be on well-drained ridges, while
coastal sites are often situated near marshes in riverine and estuarine
settings (DePratter 1976). The upland and interior sites are usually small and
lack evidence of intensive utilization (Hanson and DePratter 1985; Sassaman
1993c). The coastal sites usually contain large middens and appear to have been
utilized more intensively and extensively (Hanson and DePratter 1985). This
pattern suggests that coastal and lower coastal plain sites functioned as
permanent or semipermanent villages, while interior sites perhaps served as
single-household seasonal base camps.
was generalized, and the resource base was very similar to that of the Late
Archaic period, with the possible exception of shellfish. White-tailed deer,
bear, a variety of small mammal species, reptiles, freshwater fish, marine
fish, anadromous fish, and mollusks have been recovered from Refuge contexts
(Marrinan 1975; Lepionka 1983; Hanson and DePratter 1985). Although shellfish
were harvested during the Refuge phase, their degree of dietary importance
appears to have been dramatically lower than it was in the Late Archaic. This
may be due to lower productivity caused by sea level fluctuations (DePratter
1977). It is also possible that the larger shell midden sites are currently
inundated, as sea level has risen about three meters since the early Woodland
period (Hanson and DePratter 1985).
Woodland (ca. 300 b.c.–a.d. 500). Two Middle Woodland
technological traditions are currently recognized in northern Georgia, the
Cartersville phase and the Swift Creek phase. According to data recently
acquired from the Miners Creek site in southern DeKalb County (Chase 1993), and
from 9HY98 in Henry County (Espenshade et al. 1998), a third tradition may also
have been manifest in some portions of the Georgia piedmont. It has been
designated the Panola phase (Chase 1993).
is thought to have assumed an increasing role in the Middle Woodland
subsistence economy; marsh elder and maygrass cultivation apparently began
during this time (Cantley and Joseph 1991). Maize and squash may have been
added to the diet of some Middle Woodland peoples as well. Wood (1981) reports
the recovery of maize and squash at the Cane Island site, although the
association of maize with the Middle Woodland occupation is suspect. Whenever
it was first introduced, maize did not assume importance until the Late
Woodland and Mississippian periods. Despite these nascent horticulture
practices, subsistence almost certainly still depended largely on
broad-spectrum hunting, fishing, and gathering.
dates from the Mandeville and Tunacunnhee sites indicate that the Hopewell
Interaction Sphere extended into extreme western Georgia between approximately a.d. 200 and a.d. 450 (Jefferies 1973; Kellar et al. 1962; Smith 1979).
Hopewell was a pan–Eastern Woodland phenomenon that included trade in such
exotic raw materials as marine shells, shark teeth, copper, mica, and galena,
as well as artifacts manufactured from these and other materials. Those
artifacts probably functioned as prestige items belonging to individuals of
status and included necklaces, earspools, panpipes, platform pipes, prismatic
blades, and projectile points. Earthen and stone-mantled mounds incorporating
human burials that contain these prestige goods are common at Hopewell centers.
This form of preferential treatment in mortuary ritual is a reliable indicator
of status (e.g., Peebles 1971; O’Shea 1984; Streuver and Houart 1972), which
was probably achieved rather than ascribed in Hopewellian societies (Buikstra
1972), indicating that local leaders were able to manipulate the control of
exotic goods to further their own political agendas. This suggests that
extraregional trade and social interaction may have been directed by a only few
individuals in a specific locality or territory (sensu Brown 1971; Peebles 1971), anticipating the more complex
political developments that matured during the Late Woodland and culminated in
the complex political developments of the Mississippian period.
two Hopewell mound centers are known in Georgia: Tunacunnhee in extreme
northwestern Georgia, and Mandeville in southwestern Georgia along the lower
Chattahoochee River. Both sites contain burial mounds and an associated village
or habitation area. The habitation areas at both sites contain ceramics
associated with local Middle Woodland traditions: Cartersville, Connestee, and
Candy Creek ceramics were discovered at Tunacunnhee (Jefferies 1976), and
Mandeville had both Cartersville and Swift Creek wares (Smith 1975). This
evidence suggests (1) that the Hopewellian influence did not spread into
modern-day Georgia much beyond the extreme western part of the state; and (2) where
it was present, it entered the political and ideological domain as an
expression of status within the local community but did not significantly
affect local techno-economic traditions in ceramic styles, settlement patterns,
and subsistence preferences.
is no clear typology for Middle Woodland projectile points in northern Georgia.
Large triangular, “waisted” triangular, and stemmed varieties co-occur in
Middle Woodland artifact assemblages, and all are found in both Cartersville
and Swift Creek components. Copena points are the most recognized and discussed
type. They are most often associated with Hopewell burials in the Tennessee
Valley (Justice 1987:205) and are rare in northern Georgia. Other projectile
point types such as Coosa and Bakers Creek are more common in the project
vicinity (Cambron and Hulse 1983).
relationship between Cartersville and Swift Creek ceramics is unclear. Both
ceramic types are very widespread, and their geographical and chronological
distributions overlap considerably. Until recently, the distinctive differences
in surface design preferences, especially in terms of style and meaning,
suggested that the people producing these wares were affiliated with
interaction spheres that operated independently within the same temporal-spatial
the earlier of the two cultural expressions, is identified by ceramic
assemblages dominated by plain, simple stamped, and check stamped vessels. The
numerous radiocarbon dates obtained from Cartersville components fall between
ca. 300 b.c. and a.d. 500. They are the most frequently
encountered type of Middle Woodland site in the Piedmont.
the information reported from excavations at the Six Flags site (9FU14),
located on the Chattahoochee River approximately 15 km west of Atlanta, is
reliable, it appears that some Cartersville villages
were quite large. More than 20 structures thought to be associated with the
Cartersville component at 9FU14 were discovered in 1969 and 1970 (Kelly 1973,
1979; Anderson 1985:38). Assuming that all or most of the architectural remains
are contemporaneous, the 9FU14 evidence indicates that people were beginning to
congregate along major river systems in larger numbers for a relatively long
period of time. A radiocarbon date of a.d.
214 from the site (Kelly 1973:33) suggests that this trend was underway in the
Georgia piedmont by at least the second century a.d. Post patterns suggest that structures at 9FU14 were
either oval or circular in plan. Most measured 3.7–6.7 m in diameter, and at
least three others were considerably larger. The former are thought to
represent domestic structures, and the latter are interpreted as communal
and/or ceremonial in nature (Anderson 1985:38).
evidence of large-scale, permanent or semi-permanent Cartersville settlements
was obtained from data recovery investigations at the Hickory Log site (9CK9)
in Cherokee County, Georgia. Several large Cartersville structures and an
associated cemetery of the same period, which consisted of 19 graves, have been
identified at that site. It is estimated that at least 30 people were interred
in the cemetery. Many of the graves contained multiple interments; as many as
four individuals were buried in one of them.
Woodland structures have been identified at several sites. Fourteen
Cartersville structures were discerned at Hickory Log; all are round and
exhibit single-post architecture (Webb 2000). No internal features have been
found inside these constructions, which are approximately 5–8 m in diameter.
the Two Run Creek site in Bartow County, Georgia, a 6-m-diameter circular
structure of probable Middle Woodland age is reported by Wauchope
(1966:223–231). Although he attributes it to the Early Woodland, the large
quantities of simple stamped and check stamped wares—especially compared to
fabric marked sherds—suggest a Middle Woodland attribution (Anderson 1985:36).
oval structures of Middle Woodland age, which measure approximately 5 x 7 m,
are also reported from the Cane Island site on the Oconee River in Putnam
County (Wood 1981). They too were originally assigned to the Early Woodland
because of an association with fabric marked sherds, although check stamped
wares were more numerous (Wood 1981). The cultural affiliation of these
structures has been reassessed by Wood (Dean Wood, personal communication
1995), based primarily on radiocarbon dates from the site and a reconsideration
of the chronological placement of fabric marked ceramics over the last decade.
dates from two posts—one from each structure—and a pit feature associated with
one of the structures returned assays of a.d.
245, a.d. 115, and a.d. 80, respectively (Wood and Bowen
1995), clearly placing both structures in the early to middle portion of the
Middle Woodland period. Further, it has recently become apparent that the Early
Woodland/Middle Woodland interface is not marked by the disappearance, or even
drastic decline, of fabric marked wares—termed “Dunlap Fabric Impressed”—in
ceramic assemblages. Rather, check stamped and simple stamped surface
treatments gradually become more popular and eventually replace the fabric
marked design over time, beginning by approximately 500 b.c. Therefore, designating a cultural affiliation to undated
ceramic assemblages containing fabric marked, check stamped, and simple stamped
wares now focuses on relative frequencies and not the presence or absence of
fabric marked sherds.
Leake Mounds are situated along the Etowah River in Bartow County, Georgia.
There is no indication that this mound complex was associated with Hopewell,
although dates obtained from the mound indicate it is contemporaneous with
Tunacunnhee (Rudolph 1990, cited in Wood and Bowen 1995). Most of the focus on
the Leake habitation area has been on the Late Mississippian component, but a
date of a.d. 90±48 obtained from
a hearth indicates that Middle Woodland people lived near the mounds about the
time they were in use (see Wood and Bowen 1995:25). Not enough data are
available at this time to determine the extent or nature of that occupation.
was known about non-mound Middle Woodland burials in the Georgia Piedmont until
the recent work at the Hickory Log site (Webb 2000). The large Cartersville
cemetery at that site contained single and multiple interments. Burials were
both flexed and extended, and both primary and secondary interments appear to
have occurred. Some burials contained substantial amounts of grave goods;
others contained none. Grave goods include cut mica, greenstone gorgets, and
stemmed hafted bifaces manufactured from Ridge and Valley chert and quartz.
Most of the hafted bifaces were small, but some were quite large and appear to
be ceremonial rather than utilitarian. The cut mica notwithstanding, there does
not appear to be significant Hopewellian influence on the burial practices at
Creek ceramics were first manufactured about a.d.
1 and continued to be made until approximately a.d. 700. Intricate
complicated stamped surface designs are the hallmark of Swift Creek pottery. Early Swift Creek wares exhibit
notched and scalloped rims and tetrapods. By about a.d. 300 these traits were no longer popular; rims were
folded and podal elements were no longer used.
Only a few reported sites in northern
Georgia contain positively identified Middle Woodland Swift Creek ceramics.
These sites include: the Cold Springs Mound in Greene County (Elliott 1992;
Fish and Jefferies 1983), the Little River Mound complex in Morgan County
(Williams and Shapiro 1990a), Miners Creek in DeKalb County (Chase 1993, 1994),
the Chase site (9RO53) in Rockdale County (Stanyard and Stoops 1995), and site
9HY98 in Henry County (Espenshade et al. 1998).
calibrated intercept radiocarbon date of a.d.
410 was obtained from a Swift Creek pit feature at the Chase site (Stanyard
and Stoops 1995), and a conventional date of a.d.
445±55 was obtained on a sample from the Cold Springs Mound above a Swift Creek
house floor (Fish and Jefferies 1983; Elliott 1992). A conventional date of a.d. 110±130 from the Little River site
has been obtained from Mound B, a probable Swift Creek burial mound (Williams
and Shapiro 1990a). Two features at 9HY98 contained Swift Creek wares. They
returned calibrated intercept dates of a.d. 245 and a.d. 415. While no date has been
obtained for the Swift Creek ceramics at Miners Creek, the notched rims and
small tetrapods (Chase 1992:93) suggest a Middle Woodland, pre–a.d. 300 affiliation (Sears 1956; Snow
Cold Springs site was excavated as part of the Lake Oconee project. Only
minimal reporting and analysis have occurred, but the site has provided
information on some aspects of Swift Creek behavior in the Georgia Piedmont
(Fish and Jefferies 1983; Elliott 1992). The Cold Springs site contained midden
from several Woodland and Mississippian components. The final construction
stages of the two mounds at the site were dated to a.d. 445 and a.d.
400. Two possible pit houses were excavated (Fish and Jefferies 1983). Elliott
(1992:75) subsequently published the results from the analysis of two “large
basins of such size that they could have represented semi-subterranean pit
houses or clay borrow pits.” One of the basins was associated with the Etowah
component, but the other (Feature 50/Structure 2) was Swift Creek in origin.
Feature 50 yielded over 8,000 sherds; the collection was dominated by
curvilinear complicated stamped (63.6 percent of decorated sherds), simple
stamped (8.5 percent), and rectilinear complicated stamped. Elliott (1992:76)
was unsure if the simple stamped type represented contamination from an earlier
component or a Swift Creek–related minority type. Elliott (1992) does not
provide a drawing or measurements of Feature 50/Structure 2, but examination of
the site plan prepared by Fish and Jefferies (1983: Figure 3) suggests that the
feature measured 3-x-5-m at the base of the plow zone.
a few classic Swift Creek sherds have been recovered from Miners Creek (see
above), many simple stamped vessel fragments found at that site exhibit Swift
Creek–type notched rims (Chase 1993, 1994). Simple stamping is a common
Cartersville trait, but it is not associated with Swift Creek surface
treatments. Conversely, notched rims are not a Cartersville trait. The same
phenomenon is recognized in the ceramic assemblage from 9HY98 (Espenshade et
al. 1998). The blending of these technological traits on single ceramic vessels
suggests that the groups inhabiting Miners Creek and 9HY98 intended to convey a
message, or represent an idea, that could be interpreted by people affiliated
with both ceramic traditions.
only do the ceramics at both Miners Creek and 9HY98 exhibit a unique
combination of technological traits, there is also a type of check stamped
pottery at the sites that diverges from the design associated with the
Cartersville phase. It consists of broad, diamond-shaped checks that often
exhibit a raised dot in the middle of the check (Chase 1993). The only
references Chase (1993) could find to this type of design are associated with
Hopewellian-era sites in Indiana (Kellar 1979) and southern Tennessee (Butler
artifacts were discovered at both Miners Creek and 9HY98; items common to both
include ceramic figurines, cut mica, and quartz crystals. Galena was recovered
from Miners Creek, and prismatic blades were discovered at 9HY98. The Panola
phase phenomenon exhibits a strong Hopewellian influence, in terms of cultural
material. In addition, radiocarbon dates obtained from the Miners Creek site
(Chase 1993) range from a.d. 230
(Beta-41699; 1720±90 b.p.) to a.d. 330 (Beta-41700; 1620±60 b.p.), well within the span of
Hopewellian influence in northern Georgia (see below). Most of the radiocarbon
dates obtained from Middle Woodland contexts at 9HY98 also fall within the
Hopewellian time range. At this stage of research, it is not clear whether the
Panola phase represents a distinct technological phenomenon that corresponds to
a group of people socially separate from Cartersville and Swift Creek groups,
or if it is an idiosyncratic expression of the Hopewell phenomenon by one or
both of those groups.
Little River site contained at least three platform mounds, one of which was a
Swift Creek burial mound dating to a.d.
110±130 (Williams and Shapiro 1990a). It was associated with a dense
occupational midden, some of which may have been used as fill to construct two
Lamar period, Dyar phase mounds. The Swift Creek ceramic assemblage from both
the mound and habitation area consists primarily of Swift Creek Complicated
Stamped (n = 493), simple stamped (n = 106), check stamped (n = 66), and cord marked (n = 3) types. Swift Creek rim types
include five folded examples, one rolled specimen, and two sherds with notched
lips. Pods were noted on six sherds. Williams and Shapiro (1990a) argue:
must be emphasized that the ceramics here are clear Early Swift Creek forms as recognized in central and southern
Georgia years ago (Kelly 1938, Kellar et al. 1962).
this light, Date 3 from Mound B, the probable Swift Creek period burial mound,
is reasonable at a.d. 110±130. I
believe that this is a good date and that Little River is one of the earliest
important Swift Creek period mound centers in the central Piedmont. [Williams
and Shapiro (1990a:82), emphasis in original]
Fortson Mound in Wilkes County, Georgia, is another Swift Creek mound site
(Williams 1992). A single mound and associated village are ascribed to Early
Swift Creek. The pottery was dominated by plain specimens, but Swift Creek
Complicated Stamped (32.6 percent) and a simple stamped type (13.4 percent)
were well represented. Check stamped and cord marked sherds were rare. Of the
37 Swift creek rims excavated, three were notched and one had a narrow fold.
Williams (1992) suggests that the site may have been located to extract and
process limonite for the Hopewellian exchange system.
Middle Woodland period on the coastal plain and coast is known as the Deptford
phase; the term is derived from the ceramic series of the same name. Deptford
wares exhibit plain, linear check-stamped, check-stamped, simple-stamped,
cord-marked, and zoned-incised surface designs. Swift Creek Complicated Stamped
pottery also appears in Deptford assemblages that date to the latter portion of
pottery usually exhibits a sandy paste and medium to fine sand/grit temper. The
primary vessel type is a cylindrical jar with a rounded or conoidal base;
tetrapods may or may not be present. Rims are straight or slightly out-flaring,
and lips are square, rounded, or beveled (DePratter 1979:123–127).
lithics associated with the Deptford phase include small stemmed hafted bifaces
and medium to large triangular hafted bifaces. Polished stone ornaments and
pipes, engraved shell and bone, bone awls and pins, manos, metates, and a
variety of formal and expedient chipped stone tools also occur in Deptford
components (Hanson and DePratter 1985). Although some aspects of their material
cultural are elaborate—platform pipes and engraved bone and shell, for
example—there is no evidence that Deptford people participated in, or were
significantly affected by, the Hopewellian exchange system that was flourishing
in many parts of the eastern United States in the first few centuries a.d.
Deptford ceramic series was defined on the basis of results obtained during WPA
excavations at the Deptford site, a large shell midden along the Savannah River
near Savannah (Waring and Holder 1968). Excavations at Deptford and at Evelyn
Plantation demonstrated through stratigraphic evidence that Deptford ceramics
were manufactured later than Stallings series pottery and earlier than those
produced during the Wilmington phase.
(1979) has defined two subphases within Deptford: Deptford I and Deptford II.
The distinction is based on observed differences in the relative frequencies of
certain surface design types found in Deptford assemblages of different ages.
Deptford Plain, Deptford Simple Stamped, Deptford Check Stamped, and Deptford
Cord Marked vessels were produced during both Deptford I and Deptford II
subphases, according to DePratter (1979:111–112). Deptford I (ca. 400 b.c.–a.d. 300) is defined by Deptford
Linear Check Stamped pottery in addition to the types mentioned above. Deptford
Linear Check Stamped designs were no longer produced during Deptford II (ca. a.d. 300–500), while Swift Creek wares
appeared in assemblages at this time.
(Sassaman et al. 1990) has proposed a chronological sequence for Deptford
ceramics from the middle Savannah River valley that is similar to DePratter’s,
which was based on evidence obtained near the mouth of the Savannah River and
along the coast. Anderson (Sassaman et al. 1990) also proposes two subphases
termed Deptford I and II. His scheme places Deptford I between ca. 600 b.c. and a.d. 1 and defines it by the presence of Deptford Plain,
Deptford Simple Stamped, Deptford Check Stamped, and Deptford Linear Check
Stamped surface designs. Deptford II (ca. a.d.
1–500) includes the above with the exception of Deptford Linear Check Stamped
motifs and the addition of Deptford Cord Marked, Deptford Zoned-Incised, and
Swift Creek Complicated Stamped surface treatments. Sassaman’s chronology
places the advent of Deptford II about 300 years earlier than DePratter’s,
implying that Deptford Cord Marked, Deptford Zoned-Incised, and Swift Creek
Complicated Stamped designs were first introduced in the interior.
types of Deptford settlements are recognized on the lower coastal plain and
coast: large, permanently occupied villages that contain midden deposits,
marsh-edge gathering loci, interior specialized extraction sites, and
specialized mortuary sites (Hanson and DePratter 1985; Milanich 1973; Sassaman
et al. 1990).
of the best examples of large, permanently occupied Deptford village sites are
the Deptford type site (Waring and Holder 1968) and the G. S. Lewis site
(Hanson 1985). Deptford is situated near the coast at the mouth of the Savannah
River; it contained Middle Woodland midden deposits that extended over 10
hectares. The site yielded evidence that several structures were once present
and that the site was occupied year-round by at least a portion of the
population (Waring and Holder 1968; Hanson and DePratter 1985). The G. S. Lewis
site, in the interior upper coastal plain along the Savannah River, is a
multicomponent site that also contained an extensive Deptford midden; cultural
deposits extended over at least 5 hectares (Hanson 1985). Evidence of three or
four Deptford structures was discovered in the course of investigations at G.
S. Lewis. They are roughly circular, have central support posts, and are 4–6 m
in diameter. At least 25 refuse pits used by the Deptford occupants and a
single burial also were encountered (Hanson 1985; Hanson and DePratter 1985).
This site appears to have been occupied year-round (Hanson and DePratter 1985;
Sassaman et al. 1990).
sites, and the majority of interior sites, appear to be logistical encampments
occupied by task groups obtaining seasonally available and/or specialized
resources (Espenshade et al. 1993; Hanson et al. 1981). Mortuary sites consist
of small sand mounds containing human interments; they appear to have been used
solely as cemeteries (Thomas and Larsen 1979).
similarities in Deptford ceramic technology and preference for specific surface
designs indicate that the interior and coast were integrated in terms of both
information exchange and transfer of human resources. The following settlement
model has emerged from extensive research on the Deptford phase (Milanich
1973); it applies to both interior fall line/upper coastal plain and lower coastal
plain/coastal populations. Deptford people resided in permanent villages both
in the interior and on the coast. At various times of the year, task groups
were sent to specific locations in the surrounding area to obtain seasonally
available resources or to extract important resources—lithic raw material, for
example—that had become depleted. These specialized forays were probably of
short duration. Subsistence was generalized and involved hunting, fishing, and
gathering. No secure evidence indicates that horticulture was practiced to any
appreciable extent. The resource base is essentially the same as that utilized
in the Late Archaic period, as shellfish became an important resource once
again, after its apparent decline in importance during the Refuge phase.
Woodland (ca. a.d. 500–1000).
Many aspects of the Late Woodland period in the Southeast are enigmatic,
especially in terms of social organization. Several general themes pertaining
to the cultural processes are evident, however.
decline in importance of the Hopewellian mound centers throughout the Midwest
and Southeast and the apparent fragmentation of long-distance, large-scale
trade networks into more localized spheres of interaction by a.d. 500 signify the beginning of the
Late Woodland period in the Southeast. Nassaney and Cobb (1991a:1) have
described the situation as follows:
emerging view of the Late Woodland in the Southeast is that there was
considerable variation in social relations, accompanied by similar diversity in
ideology, subsistence, technology, and other realms.
point out that while some regions saw a movement toward localized, autonomous
subsistence, other areas participated in regional interaction spheres (Nassaney
and Cobb 1991b). These views reflect the changing perception of the Late
Woodland period in the archaeological community. It is now thought of as a
period of social and economic diversity rather than a period of social
of the Fall Zone, Late Woodland subsistence practices continued to focus on
broad-spectrum hunting, fishing, and gathering. Botanical foodstuffs and a
variety of terrestrial, palustrine, riverine, and lacustrine fauna—white-tailed
deer, turkey, fish, and shellfish, for example—were important to the
subsistence base (Hally 1970; Hally and Rudolph 1986; Stanyard and Baker 1992).
The significance of incipient maize, bean, squash, and starchy-seed plant
horticulture varied throughout the Midwest and Southeast, but the technology
was probably available to most inhabitants of these regions throughout the Late
Woodland period (Chapman and Crites 1987). However, not until late in the
period (ca. a.d. 700–900) did
maize horticulture begin to play a significant role in sociopolitical
developments in the region (Muller 1983). In northern Georgia, maize does not
appear to have been economically important until sometime after a.d. 1000.
patterns varied among Late Woodland groups inhabiting north Georgia according
to environmental setting, socioeconomic organization, locational preference,
and other factors. Broadly speaking, however, there was a time-transgressive
trend from a seasonal settlement pattern focused on exploiting small to
medium-sized tributaries and their associated upland environments, to one of
more permanent settlements on the floodplains and bottomlands associated with
large rivers and drainages.
mound complexes and fortification architecture suggest a relatively complex
political landscape. In north-central Georgia, a Napier mound center was
excavated on Annewakee Creek in Douglas County (Dickens 1975). Excavations
uncovered a rectangular structure on top of a small, earthen, platform mound.
Along with substantial numbers of Napier wares, pottery associated with Florida
and Alabama ceramic sequences was found in association with the structure. A
ditch, palisade, and several structures associated with Woodstock ceramics were
excavated at the Woodstock Fort site, located in northwestern Georgia in
Cherokee County (Caldwell 1957). Caldwell (1958) also was able to show a
Woodstock association with the wall trench on the summit of the Summerour Mound
in north-central Georgia, and a cobble-lined ditch—which may be a
fortification—associated with a Woodstock village or hamlet was recently
excavated near Rome, Georgia (Stanyard and Baker 1992). From the architectural
evidence, it is clear that populations were becoming more centralized and that
there was a threat, either real or perceived, of political aggression during
the later stages of the Late Woodland period.
lithics of the Late Woodland period are primarily small triangular hafted
bifaces often called Hamilton points. These types were manufactured until
historic times and are only diagnostic when recovered in context.
are generally used for identifying Late Woodland components in the region. Late
Swift Creek and Napier ceramics have been the traditional markers of the Late
Woodland in northwest Georgia (Rudolph 1991). Late Swift Creek ceramics are
identified by curvilinear complicated stamping, often in combination with the
rectilinear designs associated with Napier and Woodstock ceramics (Rudolph
1991; Snow 1975). Napier surface designs consist of plain, fine-lined
rectilinear, and, occasionally, curvilinear complicated stamping.
calibrated dates of a.d. 670 and a.d. 710 have been obtained from Swift
Creek features at the Chase site, and a mean calibrated date of a.d. 682 has been obtained from a Swift
Creek pit feature at 9NE85, which is located just across the Yellow River from
the Chase site (Stanyard and Stoops 1995; David Chase, personal communication
1994). Dates of a.d. 610±60 and a.d. 700±50 (uncorrected) were obtained
for Napier ceramics at Simpson’s Field in Anderson County, South Carolina (Wood
et al. 1986).
and Late Swift Creek wares co-occur at some sites in north Georgia. Rudolph
(1991: Figure 12) has suggested that Late Swift Creek and Napier tend to differ
in geographical distribution. This would indicate that although these two wares
are more or less contemporaneous, they possibly represent diverging stylistic
preferences. Data obtained more recently, however, suggest that individual
potters may have produced both designs (Espenshade et al. 1998).
growing body of data indicates that Woodstock ceramics are a Late Woodland
technological manifestation as well. Surfaces of Woodstock pottery exhibit
plain, incised, and bold-lined rectilinear complicated stamping. Radiocarbon
assays from the Whitehead Farm 1 site, a Woodstock phase village in Floyd
County, Georgia, date Woodstock ceramics to a.d.
772, and possibly earlier (Stanyard and Baker 1992). Earlier researchers
originally assigned Woodstock to the Mississippian period based on the
association of Woodstock ceramics with fortification architecture at the
Woodstock Fort and Summerour Mound sites and the use of maize (Caldwell 1957,
1958). More recent research, however, shows that Woodstock has little in common
with Mississippian culture. Despite the fortified villages and mounds, the
economic, political, and demographic systems associated with Woodstock
constitute a continuation of earlier themes (Cobb and Garrow 1996).
fourth ceramic tradition known as Vining, may have been established north of
the Fall Zone by Late Woodland times (Elliott and Wynn 1991; Espenshade et al.
1998; Pluckhahn 1997; Worth 1996; Worth and Duke 1991). Vining ceramics are
tempered with fine grit and exhibit plain or simple stamped surfaces. Simple
stamping is parallel or overstamped; chevron patterns are sometimes present.
Lands and grooves are generally fine, but bold stamping does occur. Incisions
occasionally occur on the collar of the vessel, forming a border between the
simple stamped body and plain rim.
with straight or slightly flared rims are the most common vessel form. The lips
are sometimes notched, and podal supports are absent (Elliott and Wynn 1991;
Espenshade et al. 1998).
technology appears to have been developed very late in the Late Woodland
period, and persisted until the early portion of the Early Mississippian in
some areas. The suggested date range was initially estimated to be
800-1200 (Elliott and Wynn 1991). Radiocarbon dates recently obtained from the
Tarver site support that earlier estimation. One Vining feature at Tarver
yielded a conventional radiocarbon age of 960±60 b.p.
(Beta-93677) and a two sigma calibrated range of a.d. 985-1220. A conventional
radiocarbon age of 1020±60 b.p. (Beta-95072) with a two sigma
calibrated range of a.d.
985-1170 was obtained from a second Vining feature at that site.
on the evidence discussed above, the following ceramic chronology for the Late
Woodland in northern Georgia is proposed. Late Swift Creek and Napier appeared
sometime after a.d. 500 and
continued to be manufactured until approximately a.d. 750. Woodstock ceramics appeared in ceramic assemblages
by this time and lasted until about a.d.
900–1000. Vining technology was developed at the conclusion of the period, and
the producers of these wares continued this tradition well into the early
Mississippian period (Etowah phase).
associated with the Late Woodland period include: Wilmington Plain, Cord
Marked, and Brushed; and St. Catherines Plain, Burnished Plain, Cord Marked,
and Net Marked.
little attention has been focused on other aspects of material culture
associated with Late Woodland societies inhabiting the coastal plain and coast.
The small to medium-sized triangular hafted bifaces associated with this period
were also produced in subsequent eras, and therefore are not diagnostic when
discovered out of context. In general, lithic tools are uncommon in Late
Woodland assemblages. Shell and bone are known to have been used in a variety
of ways, however. Whelk was an especially important raw material; it was used
to manufacture awls, picks, chisels, adzes, abraders, toggles, and ornaments
(Cable 1992; Espenshade and Brockington 1989; Trinkley 1989).
onset of the Late Woodland period in the project region is defined by the
appearance of heavy cord-marked pottery, known as Wilmington Cord Marked, and
the disappearance of check-stamped and simple-stamped wares. Wilmington
ceramics found on the coast and in the lower coastal plain are grog-tempered;
sand-tempered cord-marked pottery that occurs in the upper coastal plain and fall
zone in the Savannah River drainage has also been included in the Wilmington
Cord Marked category (Anderson 1985; Hanson and DePratter 1985; Stoltman 1974).
By a.d. 1000, vessels with finer grog
temper that exhibit burnished plain surfaces, fine cord marking, and, rarely,
net marking were being produced. Ceramics with these traits belong to the St.
Catherines series (Caldwell 1971; DePratter 1979).
observed temporal differences in ceramic technology formed the basis for
DePratter’s (1979) chronology. In this scheme, Wilmington I dates to ca. a.d. 500–600 and is defined by
Wilmington Plain, Wilmington Cord Marked, Walthour Check Stamped, and Walthour
Complicated Stamped surface designs. Wilmington II occurred between a.d. 600 and 1000; Wilmington Plain,
Wilmington Cord Marked, and Wilmington Brushed ceramics distinguish this
subphase of the Late Woodland period. St. Catherines is placed between a.d. 1000 and 1150. DePratter defines
this phase by the appearance of the more refined St. Catherines Cord Marked
design, burnished plain surfaces, and the rare occurrence of St. Catherines Net
the same reasoning that Anderson (Sassaman et al. 1990) had for condensing
DePratter’s tripartite chronological sequence for the Refuge phase into two
subphases, it is argued that the lack of radiocarbon evidence from secure
contexts precludes such a refined chronology for the Late Woodland period.
Walthour Check Stamped pottery appears to be an extension of the Deptford Check
Stamped tradition, and Walthour Complicated Stamped designs are probably Swift
Creek motifs. The latter pottery type occurs in assemblages dating to the
latter portion of the Deptford phase. Therefore, this study does not recognize
a subdivision within the Wilmington phase and relegates DePratter’s (1979:111)
Wilmington I to the terminal Deptford phase. It should also be noted that
research in Beaufort County, South Carolina, shows a long period of coexistence
of Deptford, Wilmington, and St. Catherines series (Espenshade et al. 1993).
Woodland settlements are small, dispersed, and less integrated than those
associated with the Deptford phase (Sassaman et al. 1990:14; Stoltman 1974).
The subsistence economy was based on generalized hunting, fishing, and
gathering. Although cultigens such as squash and corn had been introduced into
the region by this time, they were not a significant source of sustenance (Wood
et al. 1986).
economic, and technological manifestations that are associated with the
Mississippian period became established on the lower coastal plain and coast at
approximately a.d. 1150. These
changes were dramatic, and some have argued that they occurred when the loosely
integrated Late Woodland populations in the region were colonized and
acculturated by the chiefdom-level societies that had emerged in the Etowah
River and piedmont Oconee River valleys by a.d.
1100 (Anderson et al. 1986).
Mississippian period marks the appearance of chiefdom-level societies in the
southeastern United States. Society was stratified; a ruling class exerted
ascribed and achieved power over the general population. Earthen temple mounds
were constructed, and the villages that surrounded these features became
political centers where elites resided and ruled. Nonmound settlements became
larger and more permanent as territoriality increased and warfare became more
Georgia, archaeological definitions and chronologies concerning the
Mississippian period diverge at the Fall Line. Three major cultural expressions¾Etowah, Savannah/Wilbanks, and Lamar¾are recognized north of the fall line, while two primary
been defined on the coastal plain and coast. In order to maintain continuity
and clarity, the following discussion is divided into subsections devoted to
each of those geographic regions.
Mississippian Period of North Georgia (ca. a.d.
Mississippian (ca. a.d. 1000–1200).
In northern Georgia, the Early Mississippian period is characterized by the
advent of sustained maize horticulture, permanent settlement of floodplains
along large river drainages, and centralized political control administered by
an elite class from large mound centers. In north-central Georgia,
archaeologists term this era the Etowah culture, named after the mound complex
of the same name near Cartersville, Georgia. At least six phases within Etowah
culture (Etowah I–IV, Stillhouse, and Jarrett) have been proposed (Caldwell
1957; Hally and Rudolph 1986; Sears 1958). They are based primarily on
differences in ceramic surface designs that appear to some as chronologically
and geographically distinct. There is no consensus on the specifics of these
demarcations, but general trends are apparent.
the beginning of Etowah culture (ca. a.d.
1000–1050), the geographical
distribution of early Etowah ceramic assemblages was concentrated around the
eastern Etowah and Chattahoochee River drainage systems, which span five
counties in north-central Georgia. Through time, the sphere of Etowah influence
appears to have shifted eastward, coalescing around the central Etowah and
Oostanaula river drainage systems by about a.d.
1150. By ca. a.d. 1200,
Etowah culture was concentrated around an approximately 50 km stretch of the
Etowah River in Bartow, Cherokee, and Floyd counties. By this time a polity had
formed, known in archaeological terms as the Wilbanks phase of the subsequent
Savannah culture, and centralized political control over the region was
administered from at least four mound sites: Etowah, Two Run Creek, Free
Bridge, and Raccoon Creek. Three mounds, one 18 m in height, and a large
assortment of Southeastern Ceremonial Complex grave items suggest that, of the
four mound sites, Etowah was the dominant political center (Larson 1971;
Wauchope 1966; Hally and Rudolph 1986:58–59).
Etowah is represented archaeologically by ceramics exhibiting bold-lined
rectilinear surface decorations, the most common of which consists of line
block and nested diamonds bisected by two or more horizontal lines. The latter
design is known as the “ladder-based diamond” motif. By about a.d. 1100 this design type became less
popular, while “barred diamonds” were more popular. Barred-diamond designs are
similar to ladder-based motifs except that the vertical lines blot out the
nested diamonds in the area spanned by the vertical lines. The addition of a
wide array of surface treatments and an increase in the use of shell as a
tempering agent accompany this change in complicated stamped design. New design
types include Etowah Red Filmed, Etowah Polished Plain, Etowah Polished Black,
and Sixes Plain (Hally and Rudolph 1986:39). The latest portion of Etowah
culture is characterized by the addition of Savannah Complicated Stamped
designs, such as figure nine, filfot cross, and herringbone, to the ceramic
domestic architecture consisted of both wall-trenched, rectilinear structures
with a central hearth, and wattle and daub structures with a single post
construction and central clay hearths (Fish and Jefferies 1985; Hally and
Rudolph 1986; Wauchope 1966). Platform mounds began to be constructed at
political centers, such as the Etowah mound complex in Cartersville, by at
least a.d. 1150. Buildings were
constructed on the mound summits and were probably used for ritual purposes as
well as for residences of the elite.
Mississippian (ca. a.d. 1200–1350).
In Georgia, the Middle Mississippian period is called the Savannah culture.
During this time, the project area was probably most heavily influenced by the
Wilbanks phase of the Savannah culture, a polity focused around a political
center at the Etowah River mound complex (see above).
at Etowah suggest that Wilbanks phase society was stratified and ruled by an
elite class that inherited their social position (Larson 1971). Evidence for
this includes buildings atop platform mounds (possibly associated with ritual
activities and/or residences of the elite) and burials that indicate
differential mortuary treatment. Although many individuals were buried with few
or no grave goods, some burials associated with the Wilbanks phase at Etowah
contained elaborate grave furniture associated with the “Southern Cult,” or
Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Such items include bilobed arrows, ceremonial
chert blades, groundstone axes, batons/maces, embossed copper plates, copper
gorgets, large stone statues, and various items of shell (Galloway 1989). They
are interpreted as prestigious ceremonial accoutrements owned by members of the
elite class and used by them to perform important rituals.
surface designs consist of Etowah Complicated Stamped (filfot, barred diamonds,
and herringbone), Savannah Complicated Stamped (concentric circle, two-bar
circle, and two-bar cross circle), and Savannah Check Stamped. A Savannah Plain
ware is also recognized. Shell tempering and handled jars occur in ceramic
assemblages from northwest Georgia (e.g., Bell Field Mound in Murray County),
but these features are rare elsewhere in the state, including those associated
with the Wilbanks phase (Hally and Rudolph 1986:53).
than a reliance on intensive maize agriculture, little is known about the
Wilbanks phase subsistence economy. However, evidence from the Beaverdam Creek
mound site, which is associated with a contemporaneous polity (Beaverdam phase)
on the northern Savannah River drainage, indicates that Wilbanks subsistence
very likely included hunting and gathering of a wide variety of resources. Nuts
and maize appear to have been primary sources of plant foods, while deer supplied
the majority of the animal protein. Other plants and animals exploited for food
probably included small mammals, reptiles, turkey, fish, and maypops, if the
evidence from Beaverdam Creek can be applied to Wilbanks (Rudolph and Hally
construction peaked in the Wilbanks phase, and earthlodges began to be
constructed as well. Earthlodges were probably used for important meetings and
secret rituals. Domestic architecture appears to be similar to that of the
preceding Etowah culture.
Mississippian (ca. 1350–1540). The Late Mississippian period is known as
Lamar culture, named after the Lamar site, near Macon, Georgia (Kelly 1935).
Excavated by James A. Ford and, later, A. R. Kelly in 1933 and 1934, the Lamar
site investigation was the first modern excavation of a site dating to this
time period (see Williams and Shapiro 1990b:11).
Lamar ceramic surface designs continued to exhibit complicated stamped
decorations like those of the Savannah culture. Rims, however, are thickened
and decorated with punctations, pinches, or appliqué. By about a.d. 1450, incising became a popular
surface design motif. Incising becomes finer, and the number of lines that
constitute the design increases through time. Tempering is also chronologically
sensitive in that it becomes coarser through time. Diagnostic features of later
Lamar ceramics include bowls with sharply incurving rims (cazuela bowls),
cane-punctated rims, and rim effigy adornos.
are rare at some late Lamar sites, especially the small occupations in the
hinterlands, even though small (Hamilton-like) and large triangular projectile
points were being mass-produced at locations such as the King site (Jennifer
Freer, personal communication 1993).
large villages and small hamlets attributable to Lamar occupations in Georgia
have been excavated, and more is known about Lamar culture than any other
cultural phase or period. Some villages were large; perhaps several hundred
people lived at the largest ones. The King site (Hally et al. 1975) in Floyd
County and Ruckers Bottom (Anderson and Schuldenrein 1985) in Elbert County are
two such sites, though neither is associated with a mound. Mounds continued to
built, however, and mound centers continued to serve as administrative centers
political control was still centralized, widely scattered hamlets of one to
five homesteads each were ubiquitous across the north Georgia landscape. Many
of these small hamlets are very far from political centers, and it is unclear
how much control the ruling class could exercise over everyday activity in the
hinterlands. It is possible that some tribute, mostly in the form of food and
goods, but perhaps in community or military service as well, was paid to
demonstrate and reinforce allegiance to those in control.
subsistence economy was heavily focused on maize, bean, and squash
horticulture, though wild plants and nuts were consumed as well. The most
important animal resource was the white-tailed deer. A wide variety of other
animals, including small mammals, turkey, reptiles, fish, and shellfish, were
also exploited on a seasonal basis (Hally and Rudolph 1982; Shapiro 1983).
architecture in Lamar times has been detailed from evidence at several sites.
Structures were usually square, with slightly depressed floors and wall trench
entrances. Walls were constructed from vertically set posts and were covered
with clay, thatch, and possibly bark (Hally and Rudolph 1986:69). They were
likely occupied throughout the year, though evidence suggests that some
domestic activities were conducted in open-air structures, probably in the
summer months (Hally et al. 1975).
the King site, a large Contact period site mentioned earlier, domestic
structures were grouped around small open spaces and may represent groupings of
small nuclear families (Hally and Rudolph 1986:70; Hally et al. 1975). The
existence of central plazas at Lamar sites is well documented at the King
(Hally et al. 1975), Dyar (Smith 1981), and Little Egypt (Hally 1980) sites. Ritual
activities are assumed to have taken place in these areas, which were
surrounded by domestic and public buildings.
Mississippian Period on the Coastal Plain
and Coast (ca. a.d. 1150–1550)
major Mississippian periods, Savannah and Irene, are recognized on the lower
coastal plain and coast in the project region (Braley 1990). Some researchers
place late Wilmington and St. Catherines in the Mississippian period and
therefore consider the onset of the Mississippian to have occurred at
approximately a.d. 900 instead of
a.d. 1150 (Crook 1986). Others
consider Wilmington and St. Catherines to be Late Woodland manifestations
(e.g., DePratter 1979, 1991; Sassaman et al. 1990).
for placing the advent of the Mississippian period at a.d. 900 include the discovery of grog-tempered cord-marked
pottery and grit-tempered Savannah Check Stamped sherds in what is described as
a contemporary community structure complex (Crook 1986:37). Crook also cites
evidence from the Bourbon Field site, on Sapelo Island, that St. Catherines and
Savannah ceramics were significantly correlated within midden deposits to
suggest contemporaneity (Crook 1986:37). The differences in technological
attributes, according to Crook (1986:37), are probably functional rather than chronological.
evidence suggests that Wilmington and St. Catherines wares are associated with
the Late Woodland and were not produced at the same time Savannah pottery was
manufactured. St. Catherines pottery has been found in premound features at
Johns Mound on St. Catherines Island (Larsen and Thomas 1982). There is no
evidence of mixing with the Savannah II assemblage, which was clearly
associated with the mound at that site. There is also no conclusive evidence
that platform mound building, a hallmark of the Savannah period on the lower
coastal plain, was practiced by the people who produced Wilmington and St.
addition, the technology used to produce St. Catherines pottery has clear
antecedents in the Wilmington phase. Although the design is more refined, St.
Catherines Cord Marked wares continued to be tempered with grog, as were the
plain and net-marked varieties. With the exception of the rare St. Catherines
Net Marked surface design, the repertoire of design elements is essentially the
same. By contrast, clear differences exist between ceramics produced just prior
to a.d. 1150 (St. Catherines) and
those that were manufactured after that date (Savannah). Grog tempering is
replaced by grit tempering by a.d.
1150, and check stamping reappears at approximately that time as well.
archaeological evidence indicating that Wilmington and St. Catherines wares are
contemporaneous with Savannah pottery is equivocal. Since the former types
cannot be directly associated with Mississippian social and technological
manifestations in the region, the stance taken here is that the Mississippian
period in the project region began with the onset of the Savannah phase (ca. a.d. 1150).
(ca. a.d. 1150–1300).
Savannah period sites are characterized by platform mounds and/or grit-tempered
ceramics that belong to the Savannah series.
best example of platform mound construction on the Georgia coast is the Irene
site (Caldwell and McCann 1941). It is a Savannah period mound center in Chatham
County near the mouth of the Savannah River. The largest mound at Irene
consists of eight superimposed construction episodes. The first seven are
associated with the Savannah period, and the eighth was constructed during the
Irene period. All seven of the Savannah mound summits had at least one
structure and/or palisade (Caldwell and McCann 1941:8–18). These structures are
thought to have been temples, public buildings, and/or residences for chiefs,
priests, and other members of the elite class.
mound at Irene was used as a burial facility. The burial mound was
approximately 16.75 m (55 feet) in diameter and 0.75 m (2.5 feet) high. It
consisted of a central shell deposit surrounded by shell layers separated by
layers of sand (Caldwell and McCann 1941:22). A total of 106 interments were
identified during the 1937–1940 excavations, and although both Savannah and
Irene period burials were present most are attributable to the Savannah
occupations (Caldwell and McCann 1941:22).
Savannah ceramic series consists of Savannah Cord Marked, Savannah Check
Stamped, Savannah Complicated Stamped, and Savannah Plain types. Savannah Cord
Marked pottery is grit-tempered. Cord marking is usually cross-stamped on these
wares; vessel forms include flared-rimmed globular jars and conoidal jars.
Savannah Check Stamped vessels are tempered with grit or coarse grit.
Flared-rimmed globular jars, conoidal jars, and hemispherical bowls are the
most common forms. Savannah Complicated Stamped ceramics exhibit a variety of surface
designs. The most common motifs are diamond, barred-diamond, double-barred
circle, double-barred oval, figure eight, figure nine, and concentric circle.
Savannah Complicated Stamped pottery is also tempered with grit or coarse grit;
the common form is the flared-rimmed globular jar. Savannah Plain wares are
usually burnished. They have a sand or grit temper and were produced in a
variety of forms. Vessel shapes include carinated bowls, shallow bowls, and
hemispherical bowls with outflaring rims; cup-shaped and boat-shaped forms also
occur (Caldwell and McCann 1941:46).
differences in ceramic technology and decoration have long been noted within
the Savannah period, and several Savannah sequence chronologies have been
proposed (Caldwell 1971; DePratter 1979; Braley 1990; Crook 1990). This report
follows the sequence proposed by Braley (1990) and recognizes two phases:
Savannah I and Savannah II. Savannah I (ca. a.d.
1150–1200) is defined by large jars with check-stamped surfaces, vessels with cord-marked
surfaces, and carinated bowls with plain surfaces. Check-stamped wares and
carinated bowls with plain surfaces also occur during Savannah II (ca. a.d. 1200–1300); large
complicated-stamped jars and vessels with noded rims distinguish Savannah II
from Savannah I.
media associated with Savannah period material cultural include chipped stone,
polished stone, shell, bone, and copper. The vast majority of hafted bifaces
are small triangular projectile points that presumably functioned as arrowheads
and dartpoints. Various utilitarian items were manufactured from stone, bone,
and shell. An elaborate material culture associated with ideological and
religious beliefs and practices also existed. These items, part of the
Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, were used symbolically to obtain, maintain,
and sanction chiefly and priestly power and status. Goods associated with the
Southeastern Ceremonial Complex include embossed copper plates and cutouts,
monolithic polished stone axes, shell gorgets, stone statues, carved slate
palettes, and pins made of shell or copper.
terms of settlement organization, local mound centers such as Irene formed the
center of political power. These villages were permanently occupied by the
ruling elite and a resident population. As political control waxed and waned
among elite factions in this politically turbulent era, mound centers were
periodically constructed, maintained, and abandoned (Anderson 1990b). Many
mound centers were abandoned and then reoccupied several times.
permanent villages that were not associated with mounds were also established
during the Savannah period, usually along major rivers. These places were
probably inhabited by elites who were subordinate to those residing at the
mound centers. A resident population of commoners is also assumed. Small
hamlets and homesteads were established as well. In addition to sustaining
themselves and their families, residents of these locations likely provided
villages with food and other important resources as tribute, in return for
protection and inclusion in the political system.
gathering, and fishing were still very important to the Savannah period
subsistence economy for those residing along the lower coastal plain and coast.
Maize, beans, and squash may have been cultivated to some extent in that era,
but there is no clear evidence that it was as important there as in the upper
coastal plain and piedmont. In those areas, these crops were cultivated both at
large village sites and in homestead situations. Their production, collection,
and distribution were largely controlled by the elite, and the availability of
these resources may have played a central role in acquiring and maintaining
power (Anderson 1990b).
(ca. a.d. 1300–1450). The
Irene period is associated with political instability and dramatic demographic
shifts. Archaeological manifestations of the Irene period include earthen mound
construction and specific pottery types that belong to the Irene ceramic
the Savannah period, political authority appears to have remained relatively
stable. Central authority seems to have begun to break down by a.d. 1300, however, and fortified
villages became common. This suggests that warfare between polities was an
integral part of the political landscape at that time, and it probably erupted
over such important issues as the control of trade routes, agricultural land,
and hunting territories (Anderson 1990b; Anderson and Joseph 1988:316; Anderson
and Schuldenrein 1985; Larson 1972).
ca. a.d. 1350, some mound
centers—Hollywood and Irene, for example—were abandoned, and the regional
population may have declined considerably (Anderson 1990b:483). It is also
possible that this apparent population decrease may actually represent
population dispersal. Small Irene period sites are known to have been
established in the region by approximately a.d.
1340 (e.g., Stanyard 1993).
period mounds were circular, relatively large, and exhibited rounded summits,
unlike the platform mounds of the Savannah period (Caldwell and McCann
1941:18–20). Burials occur in the mounds, but the presence of structures on the
summits suggests that the mounds also were used for ceremonial purposes and/or
as residences for the elite. At Irene, the summit structures appear to have
been significant, as wall trenches, fired wall plaster, and daub were
discovered in association with Mound 8. Mound 8 was the final mound building
episode at the large mound, and the only one of the eight episodes associated
with the Irene period occupation.
discussed earlier, the burial mound at Irene was used during both the Savannah
and Irene occupations, but the majority of interments are from the Savannah
period. The mortuary, however, appears to be exclusively associated with the
Irene period inhabitants. This structure consisted of wall posts arranged as a
square with rounded corners; each wall was approximately 7.3 m (24 feet) long.
The walls were apparently plastered, and it may have had a palmetto thatch roof
(Caldwell and McCann 1941:25). Two concentric walls, or palisades, surrounded
the main structure. They are thought to have demarcated the boundary of the
Irene period cemetery created after the mortuary was destroyed by a fire, which
may have been intentionally set (Caldwell and McCann 1941:25, 27–28).
series ceramics include Irene Plain, Irene Incised, and Irene Complicated
Stamped types. Irene Plain vessels are tempered with grit or coarse grit and
may exhibit rims with nodes, punctations, rosettes, or appliqué strips. The
most common form is the hemispherical bowl; rims may be straight, slightly
incurving, or slightly outflaring. Irene Incised pottery is also tempered with
grit or coarse grit. Motifs consist of parallel lines arranged in patterns of
straight lines, curves, and right angles. The incising technique varies from
precise to careless. Designs are usually placed just below the rim or at the
collar; nodes may also be present. The most common vessel form is the
flat-bottomed hemispherical bowl. Rims are usually incurving, but the
carination is rounded rather than angular. Incised globular jars with
outflaring rims are rare (Caldwell and McCann 1941:48). Irene Complicated
Stamped wares are also tempered with grit or coarse grit. The most popular
designs are variations in the filfot cross motif. Nodes, punctations, rosettes,
and appliqué strips are commonly found on this vessel type. The most common
forms exhibiting Irene Complicated Stamped designs are hemispherical bowls with
incurved or straight rims and globular jars with outflaring or straight rims.
triangular arrowheads and dartpoints manufactured from chipped stone continued
to be produced during the Irene period. Utilitarian, decorative, and ceremonial
items were produced from polished stone, bone, and shell, but the importance of
items specifically associated with the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex
apparently diminished in this era.
on investigations at Harris Neck, an Irene period site in McIntosh County,
Georgia (Braley et al. 1986), Braley (1990) has defined two phases of the Irene
period: Irene I and Irene II. Irene I (ca. a.d.
1300–1350) is characterized by large jars with plain surfaces and by reed
punctated and noded rims. Irene II dates to ca. a.d. 1350–1450; large jars with appliqué and segmented rim
strips were produced in this era, as were small jars with simple scroll
designs. Carinated bowls also occur in assemblages of this age. They exhibit
various straight-lined, curved, and angular designs consisting of two or three
incised parallel lines (Braley 1990).
is known about Irene period settlement, and the following description is based
on evidence derived from ethnohistorical accounts of contact period groups
(Guale) in the region (Crook 1978; DePratter 1984; Larson 1980). It is therefore
possible that Irene settlement patterns had been sufficiently altered by
European contact to distort the perspective obtained from the early Spanish
on the available archaeological and ethnohistorical data, it is thought that
the large mound centers were permanently occupied by paramount chiefs and their
families; a resident population of non-elites protected and maintained the
village. Large surrounding villages are postulated to have been permanent
residences for subordinate chiefs, their families, and a contingent of
non-elites. Small single-family farmsteads may have been established in
outlying areas, perhaps to tend small fields cultivated with corn, beans, and
squash. Seasonal camps likely took advantage of seasonally available
resources—nuts and fish, for example—at the appropriate time of year.
was probably practiced during the Irene period, but the degree to which corn,
beans, and squash contributed to the diet in the project region is unclear
(Crook 1978, 1986; DePratter 1984; Larson 1980). For most of the population at
least, sustenance was primarily achieved through a generalized diet of
resources procured by hunting, gathering, and fishing.
Irene (1450–1540 a.d.). Very
little is known about social and technological developments between a.d. 1450 and 1540. Large areas may
have been essentially depopulated by a.d.
1450 (see Anderson 1990b:618–620) and could have been part of a buffer zone
between the politically powerful polities of Ocute and Cofitachequi.
(1990) defined the Pine Harbor (a.d.
1450–1575) and Altamaha/Sutherland Bluff (a.d.
1575–1700) phases for coastal Georgia. Pine Harbor traits include:
reed-punctated, appliqued rim strips on large jars; intricate incising on small
jars; bold incising; punctation, and cazuelas with multiple-line incising. The
Altamaha/Sutherland Bluff phase is linked with Guale populations and its traits
include: large jars with wide folded rims, reed-punctated rims, rectilinear
complicated stamping, or cross-simple stamping; small jars with fine incising,
red filming, or punctations; and cazuelas with narrow or broad incising or
punctations (Braley 1990).
of the late Mississippian manifestations such as Lamar are known to have
continued into the period of European exploration and early colonization.
However, Native American societies were rapidly transformed by disease,
warfare, and forced population movements as a result of Euro-American contact
first Europeans to arrive in Georgia were the Spanish, who established missions
and forts along the Georgia coast during the second half of the sixteenth
century (Coleman 1977:9–10). Although permanent settlements were confined to
coastal areas, the Spanish carried on extensive trade with interior tribes. Of
the several expeditions that explored the interior, the most important was the
de Soto expedition of 1540 (Hudson et al. 1985:724). Although actual contact
with interior tribes was rare in the seventeenth century, disruptions caused by
the European presence on the continent (war, introduction of trade goods,
disease, enslavement) altered the native cultures.
the seventeenth century, the English began to expand their settlements south
from Jamestown, seeking to influence the loyalties of the native populations in
the process. By this time two major Native American groups inhabited Georgia,
the Cherokee and the Creek. In general, Cherokee groups occupied northern
Georgia, and the Creek lived in southern Georgia. The border between the two
groups was not precisely marked but ran roughly on a line between Athens and
Lawrenceville and then west through Marietta and across Alabama (Temple
1935:4). In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Georgia was a
battleground of competing forces as the British in Carolina, the Spanish in
Florida, and even the French, pushing east from the Mississippi Valley, fought
for influence among the Creek and Cherokee in Georgia. British traders
penetrated the Cherokee territory from the Carolinas and Virginia; Spanish
incursions against the Creek along the Chattahoochee pushed them eastward,
closer to the British influence; and the British exerted steady pressure on the
missions of the Georgia coast until the Spanish could no longer maintain them (Coleman
to establish a barrier colony between the Carolinas and Spanish Florida, the
British crown granted a charter to James Oglethorpe in 1732, and in 1733
Oglethorpe launched his Georgia colony at Savannah. Throughout the eighteenth
century Georgia exerted its influence over the Creek, steadily increasing its
territory through treaties and coercion. With each new addition, however, came
demands for more territory, and by the end of the eighteenth century most
Georgians favored total removal of the Native American population from Georgia
territory. Following the establishment of the Constitution, Georgians
increasingly sought federal aid in expelling native groups. In 1802, in
exchange for ceding its western territory to the United States, Georgia
received a promise from the U.S. government to speed the removal of the Creek
and Cherokee. In 1802 and 1804 the federal government secured from the Creek
the much-desired land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers (Coleman
1977:16–19, 92–93, 100–101).
by the Creek, especially among the Upper Creek, or “Red Sticks,” increased, and
their dissatisfaction was exploited by the British, who encouraged raids
against frontier settlements. After the Red Sticks were defeated at Horseshoe
Bend in Alabama in 1814 by Andrew Jackson, they were forced to cede their
territory between Georgia and Florida. This defeat took much of the fight out
of the Creek, and with increasing pressure from the federal government and
through a dubiously obtained treaty, the Creek turned over their territory east
of the Flint River and south of the Chattahoochee River (Coleman 1977:129).
popular support, state officials continued to pressure the Creek for their
remaining Georgia lands, located between the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in
west-central Georgia. A treaty was secured through Chief William McIntosh, a
first cousin of then-governor George Troup, but it had no support among his
people and McIntosh was later assassinated for his betrayal. Although it
questioned the validity of the treaty, the federal government had no real
sympathy for the Indians; its objections had more to do with securing power
over the states than protecting the rights of the Creek. No attempt was made to
stop the settlement of the area, and the fate of the Creek was sealed (Coleman
1977:130–131). This left the Cherokee in northwest Georgia as the only Native
American tribe in Georgia with legal claims to a major portion of the state.
Their forced removal to Oklahoma in 1838 by the federal government along the
“Trail of Tears” marked the end of the Native American presence in Georgia.
Creek manufactured and utilized a wide range of pottery types. These include
vessels with plain, incised, incised and punctated, and check stamped surfaces;
they are known collectively as Ocmulgee Fields pottery. Brushed and roughened
wares were also produced by the Creek; archaeologically they are classified as
Chattahoochee Brushed and Walnut Roughened. All of these wares are usually grit
tempered; crushed shell was occasionally used in Ocmulgee Fields paste, but it
is uncommon. Vessel forms include deep jars with constricted necks, open bowls,
and cazuella bowls. All three types can exhibit plain surfaces. Checked stamped
vessels are usually jars, whereas incised and incised and punctated decorations
were primarily placed on bowls (see Williams and Thompson 1999 for a complete
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which include glass beads, pipes, gunflints, and a number of other items, are
often found in association with the pottery types discussed above.
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