William F. Stanyard

TRC Garrow Associates

Prehistoric Period

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° N,[1] “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.

Formal 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).

A 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, and 6).

Original 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 dietary constituents.

Because 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 1985:569–570).

Over 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 components.

Broad-based 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).

There 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).

In 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.

In 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).

Several 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 1988).

An 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.

Primary 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.

The 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.

Archaic Period (ca. 8000–1000 b.c.)

The 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.

Early 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.

The 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 1985).

As 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.

Early 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.

Middle 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.

Diagnostic 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.

The 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 manufacture.

Piedmont 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).

By 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).

Subsistence 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).

Late 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.

Other 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 straight bases.

The 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 1966).

The 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).

The 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.

In 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 1979:114).

The 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.

The 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.

Group 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.

Group 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.

The 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.

This 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 been recovered.

The 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).

This 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)[2].

Though 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.

Curiously, 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.

Most 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).

The 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).

The 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.

Late 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 hearth area.

Six 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).

In 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.

A 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.

The 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.

Woodland Period (ca. 1000 b.c.a.d. 1000)

The 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.

In 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.

The 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 this time.

Ceramics 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.

Diagnostic 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.

The 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 discussion intimates.

Early 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.

A 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.

Soapstone, 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.

Villages 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 Early Woodland.

A 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 gathering.

Along 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.

Simple 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.

Recent 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 small.

Refuge 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)

With 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).

The 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.

Anderson (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.

The 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.

Subsistence 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).

Middle 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).

Horticulture 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.

Radiocarbon 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.

Only 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.

There 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).

The 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 environment.

Cartersville, 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.

If the information reported from excavations at the Six Flags site (9FU14), located on the Chattahoochee River approximately 15 km west of Atlanta, is reliable,[3] 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).

Further 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.

Middle 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.

At 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).

Two 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.

Radiocarbon 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.

The 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.

Little 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 Hickory Log.

Swift 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).

A 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 1975).

The 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.

While 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.

Not 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 1979).

Hopewellian 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.

The 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:

It 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).

In 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]

The 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.

The 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 the period.

Deptford 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).

Diagnostic 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.

The 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.

DePratter (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.

Anderson (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.

Four 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).

Two 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).

Marsh-edge 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).

The 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.

Late 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.

The 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:

The 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.

They 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 “decline.”

North 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.

Settlement 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.

Small 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.

Diagnostic 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.

Ceramics 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.

Mean 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).

Napier 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).

A 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).

A 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.

Jars 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).

Vining 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 approximately a.d. 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.

Based 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).

Ceramics associated with the Late Woodland period include: Wilmington Plain, Cord Marked, and Brushed; and St. Catherines Plain, Burnished Plain, Cord Marked, and Net Marked.

Very 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).

The 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).

The 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 Marked wares.

Invoking 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).

Late 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).

Social, 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

The 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 prevalent.

In 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 cultures¾Savannah and Irene¾have 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. 1000–1540)

Early 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.

At 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).

Early 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 inventory.

Etowah 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.

Middle 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).

Excavations 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.

Ceramic 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).

Other 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 1985).

Mound 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.

Late 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).

Early 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.

Lithics 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).

Many 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 for elites.

Though 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.

The 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).

Domestic 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).

At 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)

Two 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).

Arguments 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.

Other 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. Catherines ceramics.

In 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.

The 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).

Savannah (ca. a.d. 1150–1300). Savannah period sites are characterized by platform mounds and/or grit-tempered ceramics that belong to the Savannah series.

The 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.

Another 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).

The 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).

Temporal 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.

Other 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.

In 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.

Large 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.

Hunting, 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).

Irene (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 sequence.

During 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).

By 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).

Irene 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.

As 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).

Irene 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.

Small 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.

Based 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).

Little 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 accounts.

Based 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.

Horticulture 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.

Post 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.

Braley (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).

European Contact

Some 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 and settlement.

The 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.

In 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 1977:12–13).

Hoping 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).

Resistance 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).

Seeking 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.

The 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 discussion).

By the middle-to-late portion of the seventeenth century, European trade goods obtained from the colonials were added to Creek material culture. These goods, 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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               1983    The Southeast. In Ancient North Americans, edited by J. D. Jennings, pp. 373–420. W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco.

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[1] As a reference point, Macon, Georgia, is located about 13 km south of 33° N.

[2] These and other issues concerning the Late Archaic sequence are discussed at length in Stanyard (2000).

[3] Excavations at 9FU14 were conducted under salvage conditions (Kelly 1979:2). The data are underreported (Kelly 1973) and have not undergone critical scrutiny.