Title: Coastal Mississippian period sites at Kings Bay, Georgia
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00102812/00001
 Material Information
Title: Coastal Mississippian period sites at Kings Bay, Georgia
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Smith, Robin Laurie, 1951-
Copyright Date: 1982
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00102812
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 09359861
ltuf - ABW4009

Full Text








It is a pleasure to recall the many people I have met and worked

with in the course of this project. Although I cannot mention every

name, I hope that each one of you will accept my thanks for your help

and encouragement, both personal and professional, during the last

five years.

Providing guidance as members of my supervisory committee, Drs.

Charles Fairbanks, Jerald Milanich, Virginia Hetrick, Elizabeth Wing,

and Prudence Rice have always been available to comment on my work

from their own unique perspectives. Especially appreciated are the

many hours set aside to read and criticize drafts of this study.

This project, sponsored by the U.S. Navy, was generously funded,

in large part due to the efforts of William D. Elder of OICC Trident.

Bill has worked hard to ensure that both Navy and academic interests

are served by this research. In addition, he has regularly provided

encouragement and advice as one professional to another, a gesture

deeply appreciated by one accustomed to the marginal status of

"student." I would also like to thank the administration and staff at

Kings Bay for their good-natured tolerance of our irregular hours and

unusual work habits.

More than 50 individuals participated in the survey and testing

fieldwork and each made his or her special contribution. Nina

Borremans, Chad Braley, and Mimi Saffer were competent and responsible

colleagues and loyal friends. Mary Herron supervised the fieldwork

while I was away and kept track of a great many details which would

have gotten badly out of hand without her help. Bill Hunt, Alan

Bailey, Betty Leigh Hutcheson, Bert Rhyne, Judd Kratzer and Eli

Willcox were especially conscientious members of the crew, as well as

valued friends.

Bert and Gina Rhyne provided a home and family during my stay in

Camden County. Thanks.

During laboratory analysis important contributions were made by

Robbie Owens, Jennifer Hamilton, Helen Doney, and Betty Leigh

Hutcheson. Dr. William Maples of the Florida State Museum contributed

an analysis of osteological remains and Irv Quitmyer took time out

during a critical period in his own research to analyze

zooarcheological materials for me. Dr. Elizabeth Reitz produced a

synthesis of faunal information based on the work of many people in

the Zooarcheological Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth

Wing. Lucy Wayne and Mimi Saffer handled editing and production of

the final project report with skill and dispatch, and were incredibly

patient with the authors.

On a daily basis, the support of the faculty, staff, and students

of the Department of Anthropology has made this research possible.

Among the many friends who have helped me solve problems and who have

discussed the ones that couldn't be solved are: Lydia Deakin, Darla

Wilkes, Donna McMillan, Nain Anderson, Jill Loucks, Theresa Singleton,

Ray Willis, Sue Mullins, Ray Crook, Tom Eubanks, Linda Wolfe, Leslie

Lieberman, Gary Shapiro, Lucy Wayne, Chad Braley, Nina Borremans, Mimi

Saffer, Betsy Reitz, Betty Leigh Hutcheson, Ann Cordell, Tom DesJean,

and Nick Honerkamp.

Dr. Fairbanks has been my advisor since I began graduate school.

It has been a privilege to work with him, to share insights arising

from his long experience in archeology, and to benefit from his

patient coaching and occasional prodding. His approach to archeology

is based on generosity, intellectual honesty, and respect for others,

both as scholars and as individuals. I only hope a little of this has

rubbed off on me.

This work rests heavily on the work of others who have visited

the coast before me. Drs. Charles Pearson, Ray Crook and Lewis Larson

are especially to be thanked for making their ideas available. If I

have been critical, it is because their work was thought-provoking:

the meatiest studies have been chewed the most. I hope others will

find time to criticize my work.

Finally, I would like to thank my family for support, shelter,

and continually expressed confidence. My husband, Nicholas, has

waited long and patiently without complaining. It is largely the

prospect of our shared research in the future which has motivated me

to complete this project.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...... . . . . . . . . . . ii

LIST OF TABLES . . . . .. . . . . .* * * ii

LIST OF FIGURES . . .... .. . . . . . . ... ix

ABSTRACT . . . . .... . . ............. ... xii

I. INTRODUCTION . . .... .. . . . . . . . 1

Description of Research . . . .... .. * * *. 1
Description of Fieldwork . . . .... . . . . 10
Organization of This Study . . .... .. . . . 19

II. NATURAL SETTING . . . . ...... .. . . . 21

Climate and Terrain . . . .... . . . . 21
Flora and Fauna . . . .... . . . . . 26

III. PREVIOUS RESEARCH . . .... . . .. . . . . 36

Larson's Subsistence Study . . .... . . . 36
Northern St. Simons Island . . .... . . . . 39
Southern St. Simons Island . . .... . . . . 50
Sapelo Island ...... .. . . . . . . 52
Ossabaw Island . . . . . . . . . 59
New Ethnohistoric Perspectives ..... . . . . 67
Summary . . . . . . .... . . . 72

IV. THEORETICAL CONTEXT . . .... . . . . . . 75

The Use of Models ........ . . . . . . 75
Ecological Models . . . . . . . . . 77
Cultural Materialism . . . . . . . . 78
Archeological Inference .... . . . . . 81
Summary . . . . . . . . * . . . 89


Introduction ........ * .... ..... . . 91
The Late Emergence of Coastal Adaptations ..... . 91
Marine Ecosystem Structure ...... . . . . 95
Basic Features of Coastal Adaptations ...... . 99
Applications of Coastal Adaptation Model . . . . 105
Mississippian Period Models . . . . . . .. 114
Hypotheses . . . . * ........... . 128
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . 140

. . . . . . . 142

The Nature of the Sites . . . .... . . . . 142
Level and Kinds of Data Generated . . . . ... .147
Methods . . ... . . . . . . . . 149
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . 169

VII. RESULTS . . . ..... .. . . . . . . . 170

Survey Results . . . .... . . . . . 170
The Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . ... .. . . . 179
The Killion Site, 9Cam179 . . . . . . ... .364

VIII. EVALUATION OF RESULTS . . . . .... . . . 422
Hypothesis I . . . . . .... . . . . 423
Hypothesis II . . . . .... . . . . . 427
Hypothesis III . . . . . . . . . . 445
Hypothesis IV . . . . . .... . . . . 457
Hypothesis V . . . . . . . . . . . 466
Hypothesis VI . . . . .... .. . . . . 475
Hypothesis VII . . . . .... . . . . . 484
Hypothesis VIII . . . . . .... . . . 492
Review and Summary . . . .... . . . . 499

IX. CONCLUSIONS . . . . . .... . . . . . 502

Introduction . . .... . . . . . . 502
Results . . . .... . . . . . . . . 503
Evaluation of the Model . . . .. . . . . 519
Evaluation of Inference Methodology . . . ... 528
Interior Compared to Coastal Adaptations . . ... 529
Coastal Adaptations . . . .... . .. ..... 534

REFERENCES CITED . . . . . .... . . . . . 542


9CAM171B . . . . . . . . . . . 558

9CAM171 AND 9CAM179 . . . . . . . . 571

9CAM171B . . . . .... . . . . . 573


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . .. . . . . 589

VI. METHODS . . . . .


Table 1. Components Present at Kings Bay Sites Subjected to
Secondary Testing . . . . .... . . . . 15
Table 2. Crook's Annual Cycle for the Sixteenth Century Guale 121
Table 3. Midden Formation Processes . . . .... . . 145
Table 4. Aboriginal Ceramic Paste Inclusions Observed in
Analysis of 9Caml71 and 9Cam179 Assemblages . . .. .156
Table 5. Aboriginal Ceramic Surface Treatments Observed in
Analysis of 9Caml71 and 9Cam179 Assemblages . . .. .158
Table 6. Lithic Form Attributes Observed in Analysis of
9Caml71 and 9Caml79 Assemblages . . . .... 164
Table 7. Lithic Material Attributes Observed in Analysis of
9Caml71 and 9Cam179 Assemblages . . .... . 165
Table 8. Attributes Recorded in Analysis of Busvcon spp.
Shells from 9Caml71 and 9Caml79 .......... 167
Table 9. Survey Results for Aboriginal Sites at Kings Bay . .171
Table 10. Distribution of Aboriginal Pottery by Provenience
at 9Caml71A and 9Caml71B . . . . . . .. 202
Table 11. Vertical Distribution of Aboriginal Pottery at 9Caml71A
and 9Caml71B . . . . .... . . . . . 202
Table 12. Distribution of Lithic Artifacts at 9Caml71A and
9Caml71B . . . .... . . . . . . . 204
Table 13. Vertical Distribution of Lithic Artfacts at 9Caml71A
and 9Caml71B ......... . . . . . 204
Table 14. Soils Analysis Data for the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . 205
Table 15. Ceramic Attribute Clusters for Segments of the Kings
Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . . . . . . 213
Table 16. Summary of Lithic Artifact Analysis Data for the Kings
Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . .... . . . . 235
Table 17. Summary of Lithic Artifact Analysis Data for 9Caml71A 237
Table 18. Summary of Lithic Artifact Analysis Data for 9Caml71B 239
Table 19. Correlations of Wear Variables for Busycons from
Savannah Contexts at 9Caml71 . . . . . .. 262
Table 20. Mollusc Sample Analysis Data for 9Caml71A and 9Caml71B 273
Table 21. Radiocarbon Date Determinations for Samples from the
Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . . . . . 276
Table 22. Vertebrate Species List for 1/4 In. Screened Zone
Material from the San Marcos Segment of the Kings
Bay Site . . . . . . . .... . . 289
Table 23. Vertebrate Species List for 1/4 In. Screened Zone
Material from the St. Johns Segment of the Kings
Bay Site, 9Caml71B . . . .... . . . . 291
Table 24. Vertebrate Species by Biotope Grouping for 1/4 In.
Screened Material from the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 294
Table 25. Ranking of Mammal Importance in Zone Samples from the
Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . .... . . . 295
Table 26. Vertebrate Species List for Savannah Period Features
from the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . .. . . 298

Table 27.

Table 28.

Table 29.

Table 30.

Table 31.

Table 32.

Table 33.

Table 34.

Table 35.

Table 36.

Table 37.

Table 38.

Table 39.
Table 40.

Table 41.
Table 42.

Table 43.

Table 44.
Table 45.


Vertebrate Species List for St. Johns Period Features
from the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . ... 300
Vertebrate Species by Biotope Grouping for Features
Analyzed from the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . .. 301
Distribution of Elements for Fauna Identified from
the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . . . .. 306
Vertebrate Species List for Two Column Samples from
the San Marcos Segment of the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71A 307
Pearson Correlation of Unit Type Frequency Totals for
9Caml71A . . . . . . . . . . . 313
Vertical Distribution of Artifacts at the Killion Site,
9Cam179 . . . . . . . .... . . . 376
Intermidden Comparative Data for the Killion Site,
9Caml79 . . . . . . . . . . . 392
Ceramic Group Occurrence by Unit at the Killion Site,
9Caml79 . . . . . ... . . . . 393
Mollusc Sample Analysis Data from Four Column Samples
at the Killion Site, 9Caml79 . . . . . ... 395
Soils Analysis Data for Four Column Samples from the
Killion Site, 9Cam179 ................ 396
Summary of Lithic Artifact Analysis Data for the
Killion Site, 9Caml79 . . . . . . . ... .399
Summary of Ceramic Analysis Data for All Excavation
Units at the Killion Site, 9Caml79 . . . ... 403
Vertebrate Species List for the Killion Site, 9Cam179 405
Radiocarbon Date Determinations for Four Oyster Shell
Samples from the Killion Site, 9Caml79 . . ... 413
Summary of Ceramic Types for the Killion Site, 9Caml79 417
Preliminary Classification of Productivity of Coastal
Resources Available to Mississippian Period Populations 429
Occurrence of Subsistence Resource Groups in Eight
Assemblages from Three Sites at Kings Bay ...... 435
Summary of Hypothesis Testing Results . . . ... .439
Summary of Pearson's Settlement System Data from
Ossabaw Island (1979) . . . . . . . ... .447


Figure 1. The Central Portion of the Southeastern U.S. Coast
Showing the Location of the Research Area (from
R. Smith et al. 1981:3) . . . .... .. . .. 6
Figure 2. Locations of Historic and Prehistoric Period
Archeological Sites Defined During the 1977-78
R. Survey of Kings Bay (from Smith et al. 1981:11) . 8
Figure 3. The Hypothetico-Analog Method of Inductive Inference 85
Figure 4. A Diagram of Coastal Adaptation Based on Yesner's
Model . . . . . .. .. . . . . 104
Figure 5. A Hypothetical Coastal Settlement Pattern Based on
Seasonal Variations Described by Crook . . ... .124
Figure 6. Soils Map of the Kings Bay Area (from R. Smith et al.
1981:45) . . . . . . .. .. . . . 175
Figure 7. A 5 km Radius Circular Catchment Basin Superimposed
on the Kings Bay Area (based on Georgia Department
of Transportation 1974) . . . . . . ... .178
Figure 8. Southern Secondary Testing Transect Defining the San
Marcos Segment of the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71A . .. 183
Figure 9. Excavation Plan for 9Caml71A . . . . .... 185
Figure 10. Northern Secondary Testing Transect Defining the St.
Johns Segment of the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71B . .. 187
Figure 11. Excavation Plan for 9Caml71B . . . . .... 189
Figure 12. East Profile of Unit 354 Showing Plow Zone Over
Aboriginal Feature at 9Caml71A . . . .... 196
Figure 13. South Profile of Unit 357 Showing Undisturbed
Aboriginal Midden at 9Caml71A . . . . .... 198
Figure 14. Representative Profile Sections from One Transect at
9Caml71A . . . . . . . . . . . 201
Figure 15. Representative Profile Section from One Transect at
9Caml71B . . . . . . . .... . . . 208
Figure 16. Variants of Cord Marking on Sherds from the Kings
Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . . . . . . 218
Figure 17. Part of a San Marcos Cross Simple Stamped Jar from
the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . . .. 220
Figure 18. San Marcos Series Pottery from the Kings Bay Site,
9Caml71 . . . . . . . . . . . 223
Figure 19. St. Johns Incised Sherds from the Kings Bay Site,
9Caml71 . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
Figure 20. Savannah Fine Cork Marked Sherds from Feature 36
in the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . ... 230
Figure 21. Irene Incised Jar from the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 .. 233
Figure 22. Quartz Artifacts from the St. Johns Segment of the
Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71B . . . .. . . . 242
Figure 23. Chert Tools from the San Marcos Segment of the Kings
Bay Site, 9Caml71A . . ... .. . . . . 245
Figure 24. Chert Tools from the St. Johns Segment of the Kings
Bay Site, 9Caml71B . . ... .. . . . . 248

Figure 25.

Figure 26.
Figure 27.

Figure 28.

Figure 29.

Figure 30.

Figure 31.
Figure 32.
Figure 33.
Figure 34.

Figure 35.

Figure 36.
Figure 37.
Figure 38.
Figure 39.
Figure 40.
Figure 41.
Figure 42.
Figure 43.
Figure 44.
Figure 45.
Figure 46.
Figure 47.
Figure 48.
Figure 49.
Figure 50.

Figure 51.

Figure 52.
Figure 53.
Figure 54.
Figure 55.
Figure 56.
Figure 57.
Figure 58.
Figure 59.
Figure 60.
Figure 61.

Figure 62.
Figure 63.

Figure 64.

Miscellaneous Stone Artifacts from the Kings Bay Site,
9Caml71 . . . . . . . . ... .. . . 250
Majolica Sherds from the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . 255
Two Heavily Utilized Busycon spp. Shells from the
Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . . . . . . . 259
Relationship of Basewear to Size for Busycon Shells
from Savannah Contexts . . . . . . . . 264
Relationship of Shoulder Wear to Size for Busycon
Shells from Savannah Contexts . . . . .. 266
Relationship of Apex Wear to Size for Busycon Shells
from Savannah Contexts. . . . . . . . .268
Radiocarbon Dates for the Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71 . 279
Distribution of St. Simons Series Pottery at 9Caml71A 319
Distribution of Deptford Series Pottery at 9Caml71A 320
Distribution of Complicated Stamped Pottery at
9Caml71A . . . . . . . . ... .. . . 321
Distribution of Wilmington/Savannah Series Pottery
at 9Caml71A . . . . . . . . . .. 322
Distribution of San Marcos Series Pottery at 9Caml71A 323
Distribution of St. Johns Series Pottery at 9Caml71A 324
Distribution of Check Stamped Pottery at 9Caml71A .325
Distribution of Cord Marked Pottery at 9Caml71A . .326
Distribution of Mission Red Filmed Pottery at 9Caml71A 327
Distribution of Olive Jar Sherds at 9Caml71A .... .328
Distribution of Majolica Sherds at 9Caml71A ..... 329
Distribution of Spanish Ceramics at 9Caml71A ..... .330
Distribution of Aboriginal Pottery at 9Caml71A . . 331
Distribution of Busycon Shells at 9Caml71A . . .. 332
Distribution of Lithic Artifacts at 9Caml71A .... .333
Distribution of Vertebrate Faunal Remains at 9Caml71A 334
Distribution of St. Simons Series Pottery at 9Caml71B 337
Distribution of Deptford Series Pottery at 9Caml71B 338
Distribution of Complicated Stamped Pottery at
9Caml71B . . . . . . . . .. . .. . 339
Distribution of Wilmington/Savannah Series Pottery at
9Caml71B . . . . . . . . . . . 340
Distribution of San Marcos Series Pottery at 9Caml71B 341
Distribution of St. Johns Series Pottery at 9Caml71B 342
Distribution of Check Stamped Pottery at 9Caml71B 343
Distribution of Cord Marked Pottery at 9Caml71B . 344
Distribution of Aboriginal Pottery at 9Caml71B . . 345
Distribution of Busycon Shells at 9Caml71B . . .. .346
Distribution of Lithic Artifacts at 9Caml71B .... .347
Distribution of Vertebrate Faunal Remains at 9Caml71B 348
Location of the Killion Site, 9Cam179 . . ... 366
Shell Midden Features Composing the Killion Site,
9Cam179 . . . . . . . .... . . 371
Killion Site Excavation Plan . . . . . . 374
Profiles of Representative Nonsite Units at the Killion
Killion Site, 9Caml79 . . . . . . . .380
Profiles of Representative Nonmidden Units at the
Killion Site, 9Cam179 . . . . . . ... .382

Figure 65.

Figure 66.

Figure 67.

Figure 68.

Figure 69.

Figure 70.

Figure 71.

Profiles of Representative Subsurface Midden Units at
the Killion Site, 9Cam179 . .......... 384
Profiles of Two Surface Midden Units at the Killion
Site, 9Caml79 . . . . . . .. .. .... 386
Profiles of a Surface Midden Unit at the Killion Site,
9Cam179 . . . . . . . .... .... . 388
South Profile of Unit 115 Showing Surface Midden at
the Killion Site, 9Cam179 . . . . . .... 391
Representative Artifacts from the Killion Site,
9Caml79 . . . . . . . . 402
Site Boundary Derived from Surface Feature Locations
at the Killion Site, 9Cam179 . . . . . . 410
A Hypothetical Grouping of the Middens at the Killion
Site Suggesting Contemporaneity . . . . .. 451

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Robin Laurie Smith

August 1982

Chairman: Charles H. Fairbanks

Major Department: Anthropology

This study interprets archeological evidence from two coastal

Mississippian period sites and explains the infrastructure of the late

prehistoric culture in terms of a general model of coastal adaptation.

A model of Missisippian period coastal subsistence and settlement is

refined and used to generate specific hypotheses tested with the

primary data.

Two sites at Kings Bay were examined. Ceramic data are used to

infer temporal provenience and plot the spatial extent of each

component. Faunal data provide information on biotope exploitation,

seasonality, and subsistence technology. A formal inference procedure

is employed to evaluate general questions concerning coastal

settlement and subsistence and specific questions concerning social

group size, season of occupation, and primary function for each site.

The Savannah component of the Kings Bay Site was a homestead

occupied most of the year. Primary subsistence pursuits included

fishing, shellfishing, and hunting. Horticulture would have been

feasible but no direct evidence was found. The Killion Site was a

small camp, occupied in early spring by a few families, during a

period of subsistence stress.

Coastal settlement exhibits ecotonal location on the oak-forested

rim of high land along the salt marsh; points providing direct access

to the marsh, estuary, and freshwater creeks were favored. Faunal

remains indicate a subsistence strategy emphasizing animals of the

low-maturity marsh/estuary system. Invertebrates were gathered, small

fishes were netted, and larger fishes were hooked or speared.

Terrestrial fauna were secondary resources. Though not

archeologically represented, forest plants must have been important,

and ethnohistoric accounts indicate some reliance on horticultural

products. Coastal horticulture systematically reduced forest

maturity, allowing opportunistic growth of annual crops. Because

arable coastal soils are severely limited in fertility and extent,

cultigens never became major dietary staples. This pattern contrasts

sharply with the meander-belt Mississippian farming of

nutrient-subsidized floodplain soils. The difference in energy base

explains the different manifestation of Mississippian technology and

ideas among coastal populations as compared to interior populations.

Strong continuites between the earlier Coastal Tradition

infrastructure and the late period coastal energy base are seen as a

long-standing pattern of adaptation to a low-maturity environment.



Description of Research


This study examines recent progress in the investigation of late

prehistoric period cultural adaptations to the environment of the

southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States. A model of

Mississippian period settlement and subsistence based on research by

Crook (1978) is used to generate hypotheses which are tested with the

primary data from Kings Bay. Results are compared with two other

adaptation models: the Coastal Tradition and the Mississippian

adaptation. The Coastal Tradition is a marsh-oriented adaptive

pattern which developed following the stabilization of sea level at

about 3000 B.C. The Missisippian adaptation, as expressed at interior

river valley sites, is defined as a cultural adaptation to a specific

habitat situation entailing a particular level of sociocultural

integration (B. Smith 1978b:480). These models are further discussed

in Chapter 5. Major differences between the Kings Bay sites and

interior Mississippian sites are explained in terms of environmental

differences. Differences between the Kings Bay sites and the earlier

Coastal Tradition sites in the same region are explained in terms of

technological change--the addition of horticulture to the coastal

subsistence complex.


Cultural materialism provides the paradigmatic framework for this

study, as it does for much of the archeology undertaken in the United

States today. As a research strategy, cultural materialism recognizes

productive and reproductive subsystems as the infrastructure of a

cultural system. Since these are the subsystems best represented in

the archeological record (in the form of settlement/subsistence

patterns and demographic patterns) it is possible to address cultural

materialist hypotheses using archeological data.

The approach recognized as cultural ecology is grounded in the

work of Julian Steward (1955). As practiced by ethnologists, cultural

ecology tends to emphasize detailed synchronic schemata for the energy

exchanges between the cultural and natural systems in a specific

environmental setting; comparisons of cultural manifestations in

different environments are also of interest. Archeologists,

predictably, specialize in a diachronic perspective on

cultural/ecological relations which tends to reveal evolutionary


While the theoretical basis for cultural ecology as practiced by

archeologists is cultural materialism, many of its basic principles

are left implicit. It will be shown in this study that self-conscious

application of cultural materialism is as important as explicit

hypothesis formulation to the process of archeological reasoning.

Marvin Harris, the chief spokesman for the cultural materialist

school of anthropology, has recently presented an elaboration of his

position (1979). Included is a scheme for classifying the provenience


of anthropological data resulting from ethnological research.

Depending upon the point of view from which an observation is made and

the world view through which it is filtered, the resulting

interpretation or conclusion can take qualitatively different forms.

Harris' presentation, which is examined in more detail in Chapter 4,

is of interest to archeologists because of the inaccessibility of some

of the perspectives routinely employed by ethnographers and because of

the fragmentary nature of the archeological record. These conditions

have led to the substitution of ethnoarcheology, experimental

archeology, and simulation studies in order to derive data

supplementary to the excavated material remains. Uncritical use of

data from these sources is likely to confound, rather than clarify,

the interpretation of past behavior.

While Harris emphasizes control over the observational stage of

research, archeologists have recently expended much energy in

attempting to systematize the process of interpreting observations

through the use of formal hypothesis testing. The process of making

observations--perhaps because it is so often equated with "dirt

archeology"--is generally relegated to methodological status and

considered to be under good control. Application of hypothesis

testing, on the other hand, has been a topic of much debate and

division. Bruce Smith's (1977) presentation of the hypothetico-analog

method of inductive confirmation (H-A method) is a useful summary of

the "struggle" to systematize interpretation. It is suspected that

Smith's article was calculated to win converts from all camps: he

suggests that the H-A method is basically what most of us have been


doing all along, with a few improvements. The H-A method is discussed

in more detail in Chapter 4 and is applied in Chapter 8.


The primary data incorporated in this study are derived from two

phases of archeological research conducted by the University of

Florida between 1977 and 1981 at the request of the U.S. Navy. The

research was initiated to satisfy federal cultural resource management

requirements in conjunction with the development of a Naval Submarine

Support Base at Kings Bay, Camden County, Georgia. The survey phase

was funded as a subcontract with PLANTEC Corporation, a subsidiary of

Reynolds, Smith and Hills, the Navy's prime contractor for the

Environmental Impact Statement. The testing phase was conducted under

U.S. Department of the Navy contract number N00025-79-C-0013.

The first phase of research consisted of intensive survey of a

3608 ha mainland area located on a bay which communicates with the

intracoastal waterway west of Cumberland Island (see Figure 1).

Thirty-four prehistoric and historic archeological sites were

identified and inventoried (Figure 2). The second phase of research

was designed to test and evaluate ten of these sites, selected on the

basis of anticipated construction impacts. Two of the ten are

reported here: 9Caml71, the Kings Bay Site, and 9Cam179, the Killion

Site. The former is a large, linear, multicomponent aboriginal site

which extends along the edge of the mainland for a distance of 4.4 km

and averages 100 m in width. The latter is a small, single component

aboriginal site located on a freshwater creek 800 m inland.

Figure 1. The Central Portion of the Southeastern U.S. Coast Showing
the Location of the Research Area (from R. Smith et al. 1981:3).










0 10

Figure 2. Locations of Historic and Prehistoric Period Archeological
Sites Defined During the 1977-78 Survey of Kings Bay (from R. Smith
et al. 1981:11).


0 1 2


Two important contributions to the investigation of late

prehistoric period settlement and subsistence systems will form a

comparative framework for assessment of the primary data. The

Mississippian adaptation in the Middle Mississippi area is the subject

of a case study by Bruce Smith (1978b). A general model for interior,

riverine Mississippian manifestations is provided by the same author

as a summary chapter in a compendium of settlement system analyses

from 14 sites (1978a). For the lower Atlantic coastal area, Ray Crook

has formulated an integrated model of Mississippian period subsistence

and settlement based on ethnohistoric records, environmental data, and

archeological information from Sapelo Island, Georgia (1978). Crook's

model follows the earlier lead of Lewis Larson (1969, 1980a) whose

data were derived from both archeological excavations on the Georiga

coast and 16th century Spanish documents. The coastal model is used

to generate hypotheses for testing with Kings Bay observations.


Survey results are found to confirm expectations of a general

model for coastal settlement which has been used in other Georgia

coastal studies and which undergirds more specific models.

Mississippian age components at the Kings Bay Site provide evidence of

occupations during several seasons of the year and evidence of

relatively small-scale settlements. The evidence from Kings Bay is

insufficient to substantiate the level of settlement hierarchy modeled

by Crook. It is concluded that the late prehistoric coastal

Mississippian period cultures represent Mississippian ideas and

horticultural technology applied to the Coastal Tradition with a

resulting specialized subsistence/settlement/sociocultural system.

Description of Fieldwork

Primary data used in this study were generated in the course of

intensive survey and evaluative testing phases of research at Kings

Bay. These results were used to recommend data recovery procedures

for the excavation phase of research which is now in progress at three

sites. The following sections describe key aspects of each of these

levels of investigation.


Intensive survey of Kings Bay was carried out by the author and a

crew of four surveyors over a 9-month period in summer and fall of

1977 and winter of 1978. Fieldwork was preceded by one month of

archival research and followed by five months of analysis and report

preparation (R. Smith 1978).

The surveyed area may be characterized as low, predominantly wet

land with heavy vegetation considerably altered from its natural

state. The salt marsh, swamps, creek drainages, and pine flatwoods

are probably close to their prehistoric condition, but all of the

drier uplands--pine plantation, southern mixed hardwoods, early

successional systems and developed lands which together compose 58.2

percent of the survey area--have been subjected to some degree of

historic or recent alteration. In general, heavy forest, understory,

ground cover, and leaf litter result in little readily available

surface information for site location.

The survey area was divided into two sampling strata: Stratum 1,

consisting of all high ground near water and Stratum 2, consisting of

inland flatwoods. None of the soils composing Stratum 2 would have

been optimal for aboriginal cultivation, while most of Stratum 1 is

composed of Cainhoy Fine Sand, the best local soil for agriculture.

The survey strategy called for examination of the entire area at a low

level of intensity; archeologically sensitive areas, defined on the

basis of inclusion in Stratum 1 or by the presence of known sites,

were subjected to closer inspection. With the exclusion of salt

marsh, ponds, fresh marsh, wooded swamps and open water, the surveyed

area comprised 3272 ha. This area was covered by surface

reconnaissance of 100 percent of the availability sample provided by

the network of wide, deeply plowed firelanes on government-owned

property and the narrower firelanes, ditches, and dirt roads in the

adjacent easement areas. On the basis of reconnaissance results, no

intensification of sampling in Stratum 2 was deemed necessary; only

20th century sites were found in this stratum. Stratum 1, which

included all areas that would have supported southern mixed hardwoods

in the late prehistoric period, was sampled with systematic transects

of shovel tests placed on or near the 10-ft contour at intervals of 25

m. Additional transects of systematically placed shovel tests were

executed across artifact producing areas in order to discover site

boundaries. In view of resource management requirements, the survey

was designed to maximize site discovery. It is believed that all of


the major and most of the minor sites at Kings Bay were found.

Further methodological details and a discussion of assumptions and

biases are provided in the survey report (R. Smith 1978).

Historical research, surface reconnaissance and subsurface

testing resulted in the discovery of 34 archeological sites. Twelve

of these contain evidence of historic period occupations and 23

exhibit prehistoric occupations (one has both). The aboriginal sites

are primarily oystershell middens deposited along the edge of the

bluff overlooking the salt mar-'. They appear as a layer of mollusc

shells, food bone, pottery, and occasional stone tools which varies in

thickness from a few cm to almost 1 m and in horizontal extent from 50

square m to more than 100 ha. Historic sites are often superimposed

on the aboriginal middens, from which they are distinguished by the

presence of Euro-American ceramics, glass, brick, tabby and metal

artifacts, along with mollusc shells and the bones of both wild and

domesticated animals.

A more detailed presentation of survey results is supplied in

Chapter 7. At this point it is important to note the level of

information provided by the survey data. Small assemblages of

artifacts were recovered, using 0.5 in. screen, from the fill of the

shovel tests (which averaged 0.125 cubic m in volume). These samples

were combined to produce a site inventory, composed primarily of

pottery. For the 22 aboriginal sites, assemblages ranged from 1 sherd

to 1102 sherds, and averaged 219 sherds. It was often the case that

at least half of the ceramic collection consisted of plain, eroded or


otherwise undiagnostic sherds. Thus the sample which was useful in

determining temporal provenience averaged about 100 sherds per site.

In addition to the artifacts collected from each test,

stratigraphic information was recorded which allowed description of

the depth, density and nature of the cultural deposit. Horizontal

extent was estimated by enclosing all positive tests with a boundary

line and measuring the area of the resulting figure. The immediate

physiographic and biological environment was also noted.

These data-ceramic inventory, character of deposit, and site

area--compose the information base which was used to make management

recommendations and which was available for preparing a secondary

testing research design. The resulting research program and goals are

described in the next section.

Secondary Testing

Secondary testing of six prehistoric and four historic sites was

undertaken by the author and three colleagues, with a crew of 20

persons, during the six months from November 1979 through April 1980.

A 12-month period of analysis and documentation followed.

The ten sites were selected by the Navy from among those located

during the survey on the basis of their interference with construction

plans, not on the grounds of archeological representativeness,

research potential, or the nature of their cultural contents. The

resulting "sample" is a mixed bag, including both the largest and

smallest historic sites, several single component sites, a large,

horizontally stratified site, the only site with standing structural


remains, and a site which exhibits no surface evidence. The physical

condition of the sites is also variable; most of them are heavily

wooded and to some extent disturbed. Several are located in hardwood

hammock, several in artificial clearings, and several in planted pine,

while two appear to be covered by undisturbed natural vegetation.

Site data are summarized in Table 1.

Two of these sites were originally selected for study by the

author because of their anticipated potential for allowing comparison

of the subsistence and settlement adaptations of two late prehistoric

coastal populations. Two horizontal strata within the Kings Bay Site

appeared, on the basis of survey data, to be identifiable as St. Johns

lib and Savannah components. The Killion Site was also believed to be

a late prehistoric site and its relationship to one or both of the

Kings Bay components was of interest. The focus of the present study

is further narrowed to include just the Savannah component of the

Kings Bay Site and the Killion Site as examples of Mississippian

period coastal adaptations, without imputing cultural differences.

Testing of the remaining eight sites was directed by co-workers and is

reported in full elsewhere (Smith, Braley, Borremans and Reitz 1981).

The initial research design for these two sites anticipated

comparison of as many subsets of the material culture as possible. To

this end, a sampling strategy chosen to allow quick delineation of

target areas and generation of comparable size samples from each was

implemented. A linear, coastwise transect of 2-m square tests at 25-m

intervals was used to determine the approximate limits of the

components of interest at the Kings Bay Site. A grid of 2-m square

Table 1. Components Present at Kings Bay Sites Subjected to Secondary Testing.

Estimated Occupation Periods

Site Area St. Swift
No. (ha) Simons Deptford Creek Wilmington

Savannah Johns Mission

Mill Creek

Kings Bay



Point Peter


Walkingst ick




166 0.06

171 43.50

172 7.25

174 21.00

175 0.85 X

176 2.00

177 12.00






X n

tests at 25-m intervals was then executed over the entirety of each

component. For the smaller Killion Site, a 10-m interval was

employed. These procedures resulted in the excavation of 99 units in

the target areas of the Kings Bay Site and 32 units at the Killion


The size and nature of the resulting samples suggests that the

two components of the Kings Bay Site are very much alike in both

structure and content. While similar to these in content, the Killion

Site is organized differently. Details of these contrasts are

presented in Chapter 7.

Each sample consisted of a large pottery assemblage, a very small

lithic assemblage and collections of vertebrate and invertebrate

faunal remains. Only the faunal materials from unambiguous contexts

were processed. Among the invertebrates, the Busycon spp. shells were

treated as artifacts and 100 percent of the sample was analyzed. The

overwhelming majority of these materials was derived from sheet-midden

contexts; relatively few features were encountered. At the Kings Bay

Site features included hearths, refuse pits, post holes, and a single

human burial.

As a result of the coarseness of the excavation grid and the

small sample size, horizontal stratification of the Kings Bay Site was

not intuitively obvious. However, due to the sheet midden derivation

of most samples, interpretation of the assemblage relied heavily on

spatial associations among artifacts. These were inferred from

distribution maps generated by SYMAP.

Among the conclusions drawn from analysis are the following

observations. It can be demonstrated that different areas of the

Kings Bay Site functioned as occupation foci at different points in

time. The Late Archaic period is represented by a St. Simons

component, the Woodland period by Deptford and Swift Creek components,

the Mississippian period by a lumped Wilmington/Savannah component and

a St. Johns-derived component, and the post-Mississippian period by a

Sutherland Bluff component. While these components differ in specific

ceramic characteristics, the overall composition of the midden is

uniform, suggesting similar depositional processes for the various

components. General characteristics of coastal adaptation, including

heavy exploitation of the intertidal and estuary zones, linear

settlement pattern, and cooperative resource exploitation, are

expressed in the Kings Bay Site.

The Killion Site represents a single component Mississippian

period occupation. A second major contrast with the larger site is

seen in the spatial organization of cultural debris. Discrete middens

with a very low level of cultural debris in the intervening areas

attest to the brevity of the occupation. No post holes, refuse pits,

hearths or other features are evident. The site probably functioned

repeatedly as a seasonal, short-term camp.

Data Recovery

Three of the ten sites subjected to secondary testing were

determined by the Navy to be immediately threatened by construction.

A proposal for data collection excavations at these sites was prepared

at approximately the midpoint of analysis of secondary testing

results. Several prominent characteristics and potentials of the

sites, defined in testing, were addressed in the proposed research

(Wayne and Smith 1980). This research is now in progress.

It is anticipated that excavated data from the Kings Bay Site

will ultimately be used to address questions concerning 1) the nature

of human settlement and adaptation on the cultural ecotone between the

St. Johns and Georgia coast archeological regions, 2) the effects of

European contact on Late Savannah period cultures, and 3) differences

and similarities between Late Woodland period (Swift Creek) and

Mississippian period (Savannah) adaptations to the coastal

environment. The research program also provides for investigation of

Late Archaic and Early to Middle Woodland components at the Devils

Walkingstick Site (9Cam177) to determine the function, age and place

in the regional system of this village-like collection of middens.

Analysis of data excavated from the historic period Kings Bay

Plantation Site (9Caml72) is expected to focus on the social and

economic systems and how this middleclass planter's household

articulated with the coastal settlement and transportation networks.

In addition to these three site-specific studies, the proposal

for final excavations commissions special analyses of zooarcheological

data sets from all sites and of pottery assemblages from all

aboriginal components. While it is expected that faunal and mineral

resource utilization will be discussed in a synchronic context for

individual site assemblages, highly significant diachronic analyses

will be possible because of the unified project structure.

Organization of This Study

This study relies heavily on previous research to provide a

context and comparative scale for interpretation of primary data. The

remaining chapters are arranged to allow presentation of a number of

perspectives on coastal adaptations while gradually narrowing the

focus to a level appropriate for the Kings Bay sites. Chapter 2

provides a brief sketch of the natural setting within which adaptive

processes must have occurred. In view of the numerous ecological

studies which have been conducted in the coastal zone during the past

decade and of the many summaries and syntheses which have been

included in recent archeological reports, only major descriptive

categories are covered. Chapter 3 contains summaries of the

substantive contributions of several recent studies of late

prehistoric period sites on the Georgia coast. These results compose

a framework within which the plausibility of questions about coastal

cultures may be judged. Despite the criticisms offered here, this

body of prior research is an essential and major part of the present

study, representing much information that otherwise would not have

been available, as well as a few errors which can now be recognized

and avoided.

Chapter 4 presents the author's theoretical orientation, which is

the result of personal and practical choices among the prevailing

paradigms in anthropological thought. Cultural materialism is

selected as the best organizational tool for dealing with questions

which involve interactions between environmental and technological

phenomena. The observation of archeological evidence entails special


problems which may be controlled using categories described by Marvin

Harris (1979). Interpretation of observations presents different

problems which may be solved using the hypothetico-analog method of

inductive inference (B. Smith 1977).

The general cultural phenomenon of adaptation to the coastal

environment is the topic of Chapter 5. A series of models, each of

which deals primarily with environmental-technological interactions,

is presented. These models describe sets of postulated relationships

among elements of a cultural system and serve to generate hypotheses

for testing in specific cases. Interior and coastal models of

adaptation for the late prehistoric period are compared and

contrasted. The coastal model is used to derive hypotheses for

testing with information from the Kings Bay sites.

Chapter 6 describes methods used in the present study, especially

as they affect the kinds of questions under consideration. The

depositional history and present physical condition of the sites also

present constraints on the range of inquiry. Results of survey phase

research and of secondary testing at two sites are presented in

Chapter 7. The Kings Bay Site, 9Caml71, and the Killion Site,

9Cam179, contain the late prehistoric period contexts of particular

interest in this study. Chapter 8 evaluates the hypotheses presented

in Chapter 5 in light of the results of survey and secondary testing.

The final chapter summarizes conclusions supported by this study.


The southeastern U.S. Atlantic coast has been described, analyzed

and summarized by many authors in the flurry of ecological and

archeological studies which has appeared in the course of the last

decade. In part, this recent intensification of coastal research is a

result of the passage of the National Environmental Protection Act in

1969 and the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972. Two major

ecological syntheses specific to the research area are used

extensively in the following environmental sketch (Johnson, Hillestad,

Shanholtzer and Shanholtzer 1974; Hillestad, Bozeman, Johnson,

Berisford and Richardson 1975). Instead of simply paraphrasing

previous descriptions, this section highlights the significance for

human populations of selected aspects of the coastal environment.

Climate and Terrain

As attested by its reputation as a resort area, the coastal

region of Georgia possesses a mild, subtropical climate; seasonal

extremes are ameliorated by the thermal properties of the Gulf Stream.

Summers are warm and humid; winters are cool with occasional brief

cold spells and very rare snow. In Camden County frosts seldom occur

earlier than mid-November or later than late March. Average daily

temperatures recorded at Brunswick, Georgia, are 53 degrees F in

winter and 81 degrees F in summer. Rainfall, averaging 51.5 in.,

occurs throughout the year but is heaviest from June to September when

summer thunderstorms are common. Average relative humidity is 60

percent at midafternoon, increasing at night to a dawn average of 90

percent (Rigdon and Green 1980).

As a consequence of the mild climate, aboriginal inhabitants

would have found it unnecessary to invest in heavy clothing or

substantial shelter. Sleeping quarters protected from the cold would

have been desirable for a few months during the winter; such

structures may have been temporary, lightly built shelters intended to

last only for the season. During the summer a roof capable of

shedding rain and a raised floor would have been preferable but walls

may have been omitted. It is unlikely that tubular skin clothing

would have been used; such garments are typical of more temperate and

northern latitudes.

If these speculations are accurate, then the implications for the

archeological record are generally negative. One would not expect to

find extensive, deep foundations as might be required for permanent

structures. Hide working and sewing tools might be fewer than in a

culture emphasizing skin clothing.

A prominent feature of the coastal biome is the tidal cycle: its

effects on estuarine biota would have dictated the basic rhythms and

specific technologies of aboriginal resource procurement. Tides in

the study area exhibit a mean range of 6.8 ft and a spring range of

8.0 ft (U.S. Department of Commerce 1949:302). The twice daily change

results in constantly fluctuating water levels in estuaries, marshes,

tidal creeks, rivers, and freshwater creeks. Mud flats, bars,

beaches, and banks are periodically exposed and inundated. Because

the tide follows the lunar day of 24 hr and 51 min, the changes occur

almost an hour later each day. This means that behavior which is

coordinated with both the position of the sun and the height and

direction of the tide varies from day to day. Moreover, since tidal

occurrence is affected by the conformation of the waterways, effects

vary from place to place.

The implications of a tidal environment for aboriginal behavior

rest primarily upon the habitat complexity introduced by this factor.

Various species gather and feed at different times in different places

from day to day and accessibility is governed largely by water level.

Successful exploitation of this biome would have required an equally

complex scheduling of efforts or a broad-range strategy.

Kings Bay is located in the Atlantic Coastal Plain physiographic

province. Details of the geologic history and character of this area

have been provided elsewhere (R. Smith et al. 1981:38-55). Two major

aspects of the local environment which would have directly affected

aboriginal settlement are discussed here: the surface soils and the

freshwater drainages.

The coastal landscape exhibits low relief and gentle slopes that

are the result of wind and water erosion of several former Pleistocene

shorelines. The Pamlico, Princess Anne and Silver Bluff Formations

represent the three most recent episodes of sea level rise and can be

identified by their general range of elevations. In the study area

the Pamlico formation occurs as two areas of higher elevation (25 to

30 ft above mean sea level) located 3 to 5 km from the coast. These

knolls consist of marine silts, clays and sand deposited during the

Sangamon Interglacial (R. Smith et al. 1981:40). More prominent and

extensive, the Princess Anne Formation composes the 15 ft bluffs along

the present coastline. The bluffs exhibit steep faces where tidal

creeks flow against the shore and a more gradual slope where the salt

marsh abuts the land. This deposit is composed primarily of

unconsolidated sands and silts. The youngest of the marine terraces,

the Silver Bluff Formation, rises 5 to 8 ft above mean sea level.

Silver Bluff deposits underlie the salt marshes, the intracoastal

flats and the barrier islands. These three Pleistocene formations are

covered by a Holocene deposit consisting of aeolian sands on higher

ground and alluvial sands, silts and clays from Piedmont sources in

submerged areas.

Upland surface soils in this area are acid and are naturally low

in fertility. Except for Cainhoy and Pottburg sands, drainage is

generally poor. Cainhoy and Pottsburg sands occur on the ridgetops of

marine terraces; Cainhoy dominates the Princess Anne shoreline and

Pottsburg is associated with the Pamlico knolls (see Figure 2). These

soils make up only 3 percent by area of Camden County. They are the

best land for community development. Because, with liming and

fertilization, they will support cultivation of row crops, Cainhoy and

Pottsburg sands have been occupied and utilized throughout the

historic period.

Superimposed on these soils are midden soils of more restricted

extent. The prehistoric and historic middens, consisting of mollusc


shell, charcoal, bone, and various artifacts in a matrix of dark gray

brown fine loamy sand, which have accumulated over the last four

millenia, may be viewed as culturally altered soil horizons. It is

probable that anthropogenic effects of early occupations, especially

enhancement of soil fertility through deposition of organic and

lowered pH, affected the behavior of later populations. Surely late

aboriginal horticulturalists would have noted a differential in

productivity between midden and nonmidden soils and would have

cultivated the former whenever possible.

The major drainages of the Coastal Plain are rivers which arise

in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont provinces and in the Coastal Plain.

They form natural corridors through the pine barrens from the coast to

the interior and probably served as primary communication and

transportation routes in the prehistoric period. Where they flow into

the Atlantic, deep sounds separate the barrier islands. These rivers

furnished the sediments which formed the vast stretches of salt marsh

between the mainland and barrier islands. Kings Bay lies between the

St. Marys River, which arises in the Okeefenokee Swamp, and the

Satilla River, which is also of Coastal Plain origin.

At the local level, freshwater creeks were probably important

determinants of aboriginal settlement location. Between the Pamlico

and Princess Anne terraces at Kings Bay are several long, narrow

upland wet areas, oriented parallel to the shoreline, which accumulate

and store surface runoff; excess water is channeled out to the salt

marsh via low velocity natural streams. Interrupting the coastline at

intervals of 0.5 to 1.5 km, these tannin-stained freshwater runs cut

through the Princess Anne formation on their way to the marsh.

Flora and Fauna

The biotic environment of the coastal region may be characterized

as highly productive and highly diverse. The diversity is in part due

to subtropical location and conforms to a global clinal pattern of

high species diversity at low latitudes and low diversity at high

latitudes. Diversity may also be attributed to the particular habitat

mix of the coastal region and to the extensive edge area between

terrestrial and estuarine biotopes. Productivity is a consequence of

high levels of energy conversion by grasses, benthic algae and

phytoplankton in the vast areas of salt marsh and, to a much lesser

degree, to lush terrestrial vegetation fostered by moderately high


Biotopes within the coastal biome have been examined in detail,

with regard to aboriginal subsistence, by Larson (1980a:6-22). He

divides the coastal sector of the southeastern coastal plain into a

strand section, a lagoon and marsh section, and a delta section.

Archeological and ethnohistoric evidences for aboriginal use of the

strand and delta sections are minimal, probably because neither of

these sections could compete with the lagoon and marsh section in

offering abundant, easily obtained resources. While they may have

been visited to obtain seasonally localized resources, these areas

were not occupied with any degree of permanence (1980a:22).


The marsh and lagoon section, as defined by Larson, includes two

important biotopes: the salt marsh together with its drainage system

of tidal creeks and rivers, and the high ground, including swamps and

their freshwater creek drainages (1980a:15-20). The former is a

basically aquatic system while the latter is predominantly

terrestrial. Constellations of characteristic flora and fauna are

described below and listed more completely in Johnson et al. (1974)

and Hillestad et al. (1975).

Salt Marsh System

Saltmarsh flora vary with respect to frequency, depth and

duration of tidal inundation. Areas which for several hours daily are

covered by salt water support only smooth cordgrass (Spartina

alterniflora). At higher elevations where inundation averages an hour

per day, glasswort (Salicornia virginica) and saltwort (Salsola kali)

prevail. Salt meadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) is limited to the

rim of the marsh where flooding occurs several times a week while

needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) grows on infrequently flooded ground

(Johnson et al. 1974:72-74).

Sediments underlying the marsh are composed of fine silts and

clays. As a consequence of unstable bottom conditions and the

constant wash of the tides, the creeks and rivers exhibit little

aquatic vegetation.

As the marsh grasses are assorted with respect to tidal action,

so are the molluscs. Among those of aboriginal economic importance,

the quahog clam (Mercenaria spp.), the whelks (Busycon spp.), and the

stout razor clam (Tagelus plebeius) are found in the creeks and

estuaries. The Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) and the

saltmarsh periwinkle (Littorina irrorata) inhabit the mud flats which

are exposed at low tide, while the Atlantic ribbed mussel (Geukensia

desmissa) is often found near the high tide line along the rim of the

marsh. Several species of crab are marsh dwellers; the blue crab

(Callinectes sapidus) and the stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) are

aquatic while the fiddlers (Uca spp.) are more visible because of

their preference for high marsh areas.

Remains of shrimp have not been reported from archeological sites

on the southeastern U. S. coast and were not recovered during

secondary testing. However, shrimp have recently been identified in

fine screened (1/16 in. mesh) samples from mitigation phase

excavations at Kings Bay (Irv Quitmyer, personal communication).

Several species are found in the estuaries at the present time and it

is quite possible that shrimp were an abundant and important resource

in the prehistoric period.

The only reptile resident in the marsh is the diamondback

terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin). This small turtle is commonly

identified among aboriginal food remains and was also highly prized in

early 20th century northern gourmet circles (Johnson et al. 1974:79).

Alligators (Alligator mississipiensis) are occasionally encountered in

the salt marsh but probably should be considered residents of swamps

and freshwater creeks.

Fishes frequenting the estuary system are numerous and vary with

season, water temperature, and salinity, among other factors. Reitz

has given detailed consideration to the interplay of local

availability and human selectivity in the use of fish in this region

(1979a). A review of marine conditions between Santa Elena, South

Carolina, and St. Augustine, Florida, indicates a species gradient in

terms of abundances along the coast, although the same species are

present throughout. Recent studies of Cumberland Sound supply species

composition and abundance figures for the lower coast which are

assumed to be valid for the prehistoric period (Reitz 1982). On the

basis of trawl catch biomass, star drum (Stellifer lanceolatus) is

abundant while the sea catfish (Arius felis), spot (Leiostomus

xanthurus), sea trout (Cynoscion spp.), silver perch (Bairdiella

chrysoura), kingfish (Menticirrhus spp.), and croaker (Micropogonias

undulatus) are common. Reitz notes that although mullets (Mugil spp.)

were among the fishes each composing less than 1.1 percent of total

biomass and considered rare, this could be due to their ability to

evade trawls (1979a:8).

In addition to the boney fishes, sharks and rays frequent the

estuary and apparently were of some economic importance to prehistoric

populations. Among the cartilaginous fishes common in the study area

are several of the Requiem sharks (Carcharhinidae) and stringrays


Although many species of birds visit the salt marsh, three are

integral members of the marsh community: the long-billed marsh wren

(Telmatodytes palustris), the clapper rail or marsh hen (Rallus

longirostris) and the seaside sparrow (Amnospiza martima). The

clapper rail has in recent years been an important game bird (Johnson

et al. 1974:76). Other large birds which would have been attractive

to aboriginal populations are the great blue heron (Ardea herodias),

the common egret (Casmerodius albus), and the double-crested cormorant

(Phalacrocorax auritus). Because the coastal region is within the

southern portion of the Atlantic flyway, many species of migratory

waterfowl are present for limited periods of time during the year.

Larson lists four ducks--mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), lesser scaup

(Aythya affinis), hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) and

red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator)-as having been utilized in

the late prehistoric period.

In the coastal sector raccoons (Procyon lotor) spend much of

their time feeding in the marsh. Though not normally active at

midday, if low tide occurs near noon these animals can be found on the

mudflats. Usually they spend the daylight hours sleeping in trees

along the marsh rim. Mammals which rest as well as feed in the marsh

are limited to the rice rat (Oryzomys palustris) and aquatic forms

such as the bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and other small

whales, the manatee (Trichechus manatus) and formerly, as an

occasional visitor, the monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) which is now


The resources of the saltmarsh biotope which would have been

available to aboriginal inhabitants are almost entirely faunal.

Although the vast expanses of marsh grass are highly significant as

primary producers, these grasses are not directly usable by humans.

Faunal resources are distinguished by their variety in kind and in

season and place of availability. Perhaps the most important


observation that can be made is that no single saltmarsh species could

have served as a year-round staple in the diet of coastal populations.

Oak Hammock System

The second important biotope within the marsh and lagoon section

is composed of high ground and associated freshwater drainages. The

characteristic floral complex along the bluff line is Maritime Live

Oak forest in which Quercus virginiana is dominant because of its

tolerance for salt spray and low soil fertility. Other hardwoods

occur in varying proportions, including several oaks, palms, hollies,

bays, and hickories. Small stands of hickory (primarily Carya glabra)

are found in the coastal region and it is thought that they represent

secondary succession climaxes, whereas live oak forest is the product

of primary succession (Johnson et al. 1974:50). It is possible that

aboriginal activities may have promoted the development of hickory

stands. A practice such as fire clearing the brush and leaves beneath

the hickories to facilitate collection of fallen nuts would have had

the effect of maintaining open, park-like nut groves. Shrubs, woody

vines, and herbs in the Maritime Live Oak forest are numerous and


West of the Princess Anne formation on the mainland, the somewhat

lower, less well-drained soils are covered by pine flatwoods, composed

predominantly of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). The lowest areas, where

the water table is at or near the surface throughout the year, support

hardwood swamps composed primarily of cypress (Taxodium ascendens),

red maple (Acer rubrum) and sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua). It

is these wetlands which feed the freshwater streams flowing through

the oak hammock into the marsh.

Further inland, stretching from the upper limits of tidal

influence to the fall line, the dominant floral complex of the coastal

plain is what Larson has described as the pine barrens (1980a:35-65).

Formerly composed of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), this forest is

interrupted by broadleaf species only in the floodplains of rivers and

streams. Because the longleaf forest offered virtually no game or

other resources of interest to aboriginal inhabitants, prehistoric

occupation of the coastal plain was limited to the tidewater region

and the river floodplains (Larson 1980a:51; Snow 1977). Terrestrial

fauna of the coastal plain river valleys are essentially the same as

those enumerated below for the live oak hammocks of the coast.

As elsewhere in the southeast, deer, turkey, and raccoon were the

primary live oak forest animals used for food. The behavior,

distribution and exploitation of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus

virginianus) have been described by Hudson (1976:274-279), Larson

(1980a:166-172) and B. Smith (1974). As the largest herbivores of the

southeastern woodlands, deer were the target of a well-developed

hunting tradition. It has been suggested that the culling and

population control of hunting, together with the provisioning which

followed fire-clearing, resulted in semidomestication of the deer

(Hudson 1976:276-77). The only larger mammal used as food was the

black bear (Ursus americanus), valued for the fat which it contributed

to an otherwise lean diet.

Besides the raccoon (Procyon lotor), other small mammals

associated with the oak hammock or its edges are the oppossum

(Didelphis virginiana), the cottontail rabbit (Silvilagus floridanus),

the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and the fox squirrel (Sciurus


Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are the largest of the oak

hammock birds, but Larson indicates that they were not much used in

this part of the southeast during the Mississippian period. Other

wild fowl which would have been available include several of the

migratory geese, the wood duck (Aix sponsa), which is a permanent

resident, and the bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). The Eastern

Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis carolinensis), which was

once plentiful in the coastal region, may have been hunted by the

Indians. This bird was rapidly extirpated from the southeast

following white settlement due to its destructive effects on maize

crops and fruit orchards. Its preference for flocking and its

unsuspicious, easily approachable nature facilitated extermination.

These habits might also have promoted aboriginal garden-hunting of the

bird. By 1849 Le Conte reported that, in the maritime districts,

"scarcely any are now to be found" (Burleigh 1958:313). Some of the

migratory ducks mentioned earlier in connection with the saltmarsh

system might also have been hunted when they visited the freshwater

marshes and ponds associated with the oak hammock system.

Of the terrestrial reptiles, the gopher tortoise (Gopherus

polyphemus), the box turtle (Terrapene carolina) and several species

of snakes are the most conspicuous. Snake remains appear regularly in


faunal collections from coastal sites and Pearson has pointed out that

a Le Moyne drawing shows the preparation of snake as food (Pearson

1979:155). Several freshwater turtles were also used; the alligator

mentioned previously is another reptile associated with this habitat.

Fishes found in the freshwater streams which drain the uplands

are much more limited in variety. Probably the most important were

catfish (Ictaluridae). Anadromous species frequenting the freshwater

rivers of the coastal plain may have been of seasonal importance in

the aboriginal diet. These include American shad (Alosa sapidissima),

alewife (A. pseudoharengus), glut herring (A. aestivalis), striped

bass (Morone saxatilis), Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus) and

shortnosed sturgeon (A. brevirostrum).

No invertebrates of the oak hammock system seem to have been

important subsistence items. Several terrestrial snails regularly

occur in small numbers in shell middens, but these are generally

interpreted as commensal detritus feeders. Only Euglandina rose

would have been large enough to be rewarding; collection of

significant numbers would have been difficult.

The specific botanical composition of any tract within the forest

is a product of many factors, including soil type, elevation, drainage

and forest maturity. High diversity and low equitability are

characteristic. It is important to note that aborginal populations in

the late prehistoric period must have contributed to this diversity

through the practice of swidden horticulture.

While the remains of mammals are the most conspicuous evidence of

oak hammock exploitation appearing in the archeological record, they

probably do not represent the most critical resource. Wild plant

foods, especially the protein- and fat-rich nuts of oak and hickory

trees, must have been seasonal staples. Fruits and berries,

especially persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), black cherry (Prunus

serotina), grapes (Vitis spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.),

blackberries (Rubus sp.), palm fruit (Sabal palmetto), and saw

palmetto berries (Serenoa repens) would have been important sources of

carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. In addition,

gums and saps, honey, starchy roots (especially Smilax spp.), pot

herbs, teas (including Ilex vomitoria), and various seasonings, though

not in evidence archeologically, are likely to have been used. Other

forest products such as 1) wood and vines for construction of houses,

canoes and tools, 2) pitch as an adhesive, 3) firewood, and 4) mosses

and other fibers for fabric, nets, and twine, are among the oak

hammock resources which would have been important in maintaining

coastal lifeways.

It is likely that aboriginal communities were frequently based

within the Maritime Live Oak forest belt along the coast to take

advantage of the natural shelter and clear floor of the hammock, the

good drainage and freedom from flooding afforded by the high bluffs,

the fruit, nut, and seed products of the varied vegetation, proximity

to freshwater runs draining the interior pine forest, availability of

firewood, and proximity to estuarine and marsh resources. The linear

distribution of hardwood forests would have affected spatial patterns

of settlement and may have conditioned migration patterns.


Although archeological research has been conducted in coastal

Georgia since the late 19th century, it is only within the last decade

that systematically excavated samples adequate for addressing

culture-environment interactions have become available. The earlier

studies are reviewed in several sources and will not be further

discussed here (see Chance 1974; DePratter 1976, 1979; Martinez 1975;

Wallace 1975). This chapter is concerned with summarizing recent

research which focuses on late prehistoric period populations.

Larson's Subsistence Study

The current generation of ecologically oriented studies of

southeastern coastal archeology has been strongly influenced by the

work of Lewis H. Larson (1969;1980a). Larson inventories

environmental, ethnohistoric and archeological information concerning

late prehistoric and protohistoric period aboriginal subsistence

practices and presents his impression of the relative importance of

the varied resources of this region.

Beginning with a description of three of the major sectors within

the Coastal Plain, Larson lists dominant species and species of

potential or documented importance to aboriginal populations, arranged

by habitat. The Coastal Sector, South Florida Sector and Pine Barrens

Sector are covered. Subsequent chapters present details concerning

the nutritional value, behavior, seasonality, technological

availability, abundance and yield of the best-known species. Where

available, archeological examples are included. Especially

interesting are analyses of ethnohistorical references to specific

resource procurement techniques in light of contemporary information

concerning the habitat and behavior of species involved.

While Larson's treatment is comprehensive and contains impressive

detail, it is essentially a preliminary survey of the topic. It was

possible, on the basis of archeological data available in 1969, to

indicate general resource procurement patterns, principal targets of

subsistence efforts, and a range of variation in strategies. However,

quantification of these data was not attempted. Where numbers are

used for comparison, they are somewhat misleading because simple

totals of individuals for a particular species at a particular site

are given, without regard to relative occurrence, extent of excavation

or collection techniques. Conclusions, where offered, are based on a

subjective analysis of these data and should be treated as hypotheses

for testing with the samples which have become available since 1969.

For example, the statement that fishing was, at best, a secondary and

seasonal subsistence activity which did not approach the productive

importance of gathering wild plant food (1980a:126) deserves closer

examination. It cannot, at present, be regarded as empirically

verified because, as Larson notes, "the archeological evidence for the

aboriginal use of plants on the Coastal Plain during the Mississippi

period is almost nonexistent" (1980a:184).

It is doubtful that direct comparison of archeological remains

from different classes of subsistence resources is a productive line

of inquiry. Differential representation, deposition and preservation

present serious analytical problems, despite recent advances in

recovery and identification techniques. Larson's concluding chapter

contains an interesting but flawed attempt to measure the importance

of plant foods by reconstructing the caloric contribution of animal

foods represented in a midden at the Pine Harbor Site (1980a:224-226).

This analysis is discussed in Chapter 4 in an examination of

archeological reasoning.

The value of Larson's contribution lies in the emphasis he places

on four criteria governing resource importance: value, availability,

abundance and yield. Once these variables have been quantified for

individual species at individual sites in specific local environments,

it will be possible to make precise statements about late aboriginal

subsistence patterns in the Coastal Plain.

A second recent contribution by Larson is a brief report

concerning the Spanish presence in the vicinity of Sapelo Island

(1980b). Previously unpublished data on Spanish period structures at

two sites are presented. At both the north end of Harris Neck and

Fort King George there is evidence of closed-corner, wall-trench

structures which are divided into sections by interior walls and lack

indoor hearths. In contrast, the earlier Pine Harbor Site exhibits

only a cluster of individually set posts. In addition to these data,

reference is made to evidence of cultigens from several Spanish period

sites. What is hinted at in this paper, but not discussed, is the

likelihood that evidence of acculturative change during the Spanish

period will be found in both settlement and subsistence patterns. If

significant change under the influence of Spanish explorers, soldiers,

and missionaries is postulated, then care must be exercised in using

analogies drawn from ethnohistoric sources for the interpretation of

prehistoric cultures.

Three doctoral dissertations based primarily on archeological

data from late aboriginal coastal sites have been produced within the

last decade. These are Wallace's synchronic study of a mainly

prehistoric Guale site on St. Simons Island (1975), Crook's

examination of Mississippian period community organization on Sapelo

Island (1978) and Pearson's explicitly diachronic study of late

aboriginal culture change using data from Ossabaw Island (1979).

While a common geographic region and temporal period furnish unifying

themes, these studies are widely disparate in approach, methodology,

inference techniques and conclusions. Important similarities and

differences are discussed following a brief exposition of each.

Northern St. Simons Island

In his investigation of Guale cultures on the lower Georgia coast,

Ronald Wallace brings together three lines of evidence in an attempt

to reconstruct protohistoric period social organization and

technological adaptation (1975). Burial data from three skeletal

series excavated on St. Simons Island, associated architectural

features, and subsistence samples from a nearby midden constitute the

archeological evidence. Ethnohistoric information is taken from two

secondary sources: Swanton's 1922 synthesis and a manuscript by

Larson (1953). Biochemical data resulting from strontium analysis of

osteological samples provides the third line of evidence. Although

there is some discussion of hypotheses in the opening chapter,

Wallace's approach is clearly reconstructive rather than inferential.

Where statistical analyses fail to produce significant results, the

argument is bolstered with ethnohistoric details. Each of the primary

data bases is examined in turn below.

Excavations of aboriginal skeletal remains from three sites on

the north end of St. Simons Island provide a sample totaling 33

burials and containing at least 51 individuals. The sites are Taylor

Mound, descri-ed as a ceremonial mound with burials, Couper Field,

which consisted of a cluster of burials in association with a

hypothetical charnel house, and Indian Field, a cluster of burials

associated with a large oval longhouse or pavilion. All are located

on Cannons Point, a 4.25 km long by 0.75 km wide peninsula. Taylor

Mound is near the neck of the peninsula, about 100 m from the marsh

edge. The two village sites are 3 km north-northwest of Taylor Mound

and separated from each other by a distance of 300-400 m. Analysis

was focused on burial practices; an in-depth osteological analysis of

the skeletal materials was conducted separately (Zahler 1976).

The Taylor Mound sample includes almost half of the 24 interments

originally present in the mound. Earlier excavation of 30 percent of

the site by Charles Pearson and Fred Cook removed 13 burials; 8 of

these were accompanied by aboriginal grave goods only and three others

included European materials (Pearson 1977a). Pearson interprets the

site as a late Savannah phase burial mound with intrusive early

historic period burials. The date for the mound is apparently derived

from 74 Savannah series sherds recovered from the fill. Wallace

infers a different temporal association. Based on an east side cache

containing Irene and San Marcos pots and European iron artifacts and

on the presence of European artifacts in the upper layers of the mound

fill, he suggests a protohistoric affiliation. Only three of

Wallace's burials are associated with aboriginal artifacts (shell

beads); none are associated with European materials.

The Couper Field sample consists of 16 burials (18 individuals)

recovered from below-ground grave pits. Six of these were accompanied

by aboriginal artifacts; only one, an adult male, included more than

one kind of artifact.

Using a set of nine general descriptive features, Wallace

analyzed these two samples and found very little difference between

them. While one might argue with an analytical scheme which assigns

the same weight to a single flint chip as is assigned to a slate celt,

a stemmed point and two flint chips, it is possible to agree that the

two sets of burial practices are very similar. All burials in both

sets are primary, flexed interments. The most common artifacts are

personal ornaments-shell beads, a shell ear plug, a bone pin--but

these occur with fewer than one third of the individuals in each

sample. Unmodified marine shell is present with more than half of

each sample but its significance appears to vary from accidental

inclusion as midden material to deliberate lining of a grave pit. A

single individual, in the Couper Field sample, is distinguished by a

relative abundance and variety of grave goods.

The third burial sample, from Indian Field, differs markedly from

the first two in that it contains extended and bundle burials, an

isolated skull burial and bones which show evidence of mechanical

defleshing. Associated artifacts fall within the ranges of kind and

frequency observed at Taylor Mound and Couper Field and the only

relatively richly accompanied individual is an adult male.

Architectural information associated with each skeletal sample is

given extended discussion by Wallace but may be briefly summarized.

Taylor Mound was a small structure consisting of a rectangular shell

core covered by a single stage of borrow pit fill. The argument

presented by Wallace for architectural elaboration and ceremonial

function is unconvincing. The Couper Field burials were not

associated with structural remains of any sort. A mortuary structure

was hypothesized on the basis of clustering of burials and the

occurrence of "empty" burial pits which imply disinterments. The

Indian Field burials occur immediately south of a cluster of post

holes interpreted as a 9 m by 15 m oval longhouse or pavilion. The

presence of pits containing cooking debris suggests a domestic

function for the structure.

Wallace takes the similarities between the Taylor and Couper

Field assemblages to be evidence that they are samples of the same

sociocultural population. This decision is made despite the facts

that 1) the two sites are separated by a distance of 3 km, 2) the

village site nearest the mound was not sampled, and 3) it is stated

that the Taylor Mound population is later than the Couper Field

population. He then combines them for the purpose of further

analysis; the principal reason for lumping was to obtain a sample

large enough for the use of certain statistical tests. No significant

correlation was found between sex and presence of exotic grave goods.

(Exotic grave goods are not defined--nor is their cultural

significance shown.) No significant correlation was found between sex

and sex of nearest neighbor. However, despite the statistical

evidence, Wallace suggests that a matrilocal post-marital residence

pattern may be inferred.

Two serious objections to this analytical approach should be

mentioned; both have to do with the fact that the nearest neighbor

technique is a form of spatial analysis. First, the sampling area for

Wallace's nearest neighbor analysis of Taylor Mound is essentially

doughnut-shaped, a consequence of Pearson's prior excavation of the

mound's center. Surely some of the individuals removed by Pearson and

Cook were originally nearest neighbors to some of Wallace's

individuals. If burial proximity had the cultural significance

suggested by Wallace, this is a serious loss. A further

methodological consideration is the need to control for boundary

effects when using nearest neighbor techniques (Hodder and Orton

1976:41-43). Second, in the process of combining mound and mortuary

samples an essentially three-dimensional, permanent burial arrangement

has been combined with a two-dimensional, presumably temporary burial

arrangement. It is questionable whether proximity in the mound would

have had the same cultural significance as proximity in the mortuary.


One additional conclusion derived from the analysis of the burial

samples is open to question. Having stated that similar burial

practices at Taylor Mound and Couper Field indicate membership in the

same sociocultural population, Wallace extends this to mean membership

in the same, contemporary residence group. Mortuary treatment, he

says, is diagnostic of differential group prestige: "In this

instance, the fact that one group received primary burial in a

ceremonial mound, a second group was buried in what was probably a

mortuary structure (from which they were occasionally removed), and a

third group of burials were distributed along the southern wall of a

longhouse is diagnostic, we believe, of a ranking of these aboriginal

groups during life" (1975:143). Having combined spatially separate

behaviors, he then turns around and states that spatial differences

within the combined group are significant. While burial practices are

clearly variable, it is not demonstrated that rank is the best or only

explanation for this variability.

The ethnohistorical reconstruction offered by Wallace contains an

assessment of the reliability of the documents and supplies a useful

synthesis of the information available in translated and secondary

sources. It is, however, an essentially synchronic reconstruction,

since no effort was made to distinguish between early and late

historic period observations to detect changes in the coastal

populations through the eyes of the different ethnohistoric observers

who left records over the course of the mission period. In addition,

we now know that at least some of the ethnohistoric material formerly

believed to be applicable to the Guale area may refer to Siouan

populations in northern South Carolina (J.T. Milanich, personal


The final source of information used in the St. Simons study is

subsistence analysis, including zooarcheological examination of food

bone, identification of shellfish, analysis of the strontium content

of human bone and identification of botanical remains. The two faunal

analyses were conducted on 1/4 in. screened samples from two arbitrary

levels of a block of midden having a total volume of 9 cubic m. The

fact that this volume of midden yielded only 101 fragments of bone (28

MNI) is indicative either of relatively poor preservation or of the

minor importance of vertebrates.

The small sample size does not completely negate the value of the

Couper Field subsistence data but it does severely limit the kinds of

inferences which can be made. Accepted standards for adequacy of a

sample are based on the degree to which the sample reflects the range

and proportion of species present in the site as a whole. For

Southeastern coastal sites minimum vertebrate faunal samples of 1400

fragments or 200 MNI have been recommended (Wing and Brown

1979:118-121; Reitz 1982). The Couper Field sample cannot be said to

demonstrate any more than the presence of identified species: it

cannot be used to evaluate absence or relative proportion and

certainly is inadequate for assessment of change through time. It is

interesting to note that the most frequently encountered species in

each level is Bagre cf. marinus, sea catfish (cf. gafftopsail) The

malacological analysis indicates almost exclusive exploitation of

oyster Crassostrea virginica) with five other species occurring in

incidental amounts (less than 0.5 percent by weight). These general

findings agree with more recently excavated samples which will be

discussed later.

Strontium analysis is a biochemical technique for evaluating the

trophic level of an animal by comparing the amount of stable isotopic

strontium in a specimen of skeletal material to the amount in a

specimen from a known animal of known diet in the same environment.

In general, herbivores exhibit higher concentrations than carnivores.

Wallace found a statistically significant difference between the

mean strontium concentrations for samples of five burials each from

Taylor Mound and Couper Field. The direction of the difference

indicates a higher trophic level for the mound sample than for the

charnel house sample. (For this interpretation, the mound is said to

be later than the charnel house.) At face value this would suggest a

decreasing reliance on horticulture through time. However, three

cases exhibit higher strontium levels than the reference herbivore.

In light of the uniformly high concentration of strontium in marine

fish and shellfish, Wallace explains the observed decrease in human

tissue concentration over time "as evidence of a change from a

marine-oriented, fishing-and-shellfishing economy (with consequently

high strontium readings) to one that is predominantly horticultural"


In addition to the confounding factor of marine components in the

diet, recently published data cited in the following table suggest

further complications in strontium level interpretations (Gilbert


Elemental Strontium Levels in Four Food Groups

Component mean Sr concentration (ppm)

Grains and cereals 3.00
Vegetables (including legumes, tubers
and leafy materials) 1.90
Meats (excluding fish and shellfish) 2.00
Nuts 60.00

Nuts, including several species of acorns and several species of

hickory nuts, are believed to have been an important resource for

coastal aboriginal groups in the late prehistoric period (Larson

1969:316). Considering that elemental strontium is 20 times more

abundant in nuts than in any other of the food sources listed, it

seems likely that hunting-gathering groups would have had tissue

strontium levels higher than strictly horticultural peoples. In view

of the high strontium concentrations in two important subsistence

resources--seafoods and nuts--it is likely that any change resulting

from an increased or decreased reliance on horticulture would be

masked. Of more interest than the inter-sample difference reported by

Wallace is the intra-sample variability: for both samples the range

of values is greater than the difference between the two sample means.

This is evidence of a differential distribution of resources which may

be socially significant.

Ethnobotanical evidence from Couper Field consisted of three

identified specimens recovered from "food pits" near a shell midden.

The low recovery rate for botanical remains is typical of coastal

sites and two of the three specimens are common local flora (Polygonum

sp., reported as "knotweed" and Celtis sp., reported as "hackberry").


The third specimen, also identified only to genus level, Vigna sp., is

assigned the common name of "black-eyed pea or cowpea" and is

interpreted as "direct evidence of aboriginal edible plants"

(1975:236,238). This presents an interesting dilemma. The genus

Vigna, which includes some of the earliest domesticated and most

widely cultivated legumes, contains many species. Among these is

Vigna sinensis, the black-eyed pea, which is of Ethiopian origin (Duke

1981:302). If Wallace's pea is in fact V. sinensis, as implied by the

common name, it is either highly significant evidence for the early

introduction of this cultigen, or, most likely, a contaminant from

plantation period or modern agricultural activities. If it is not V.

sinensis but some other member of the pea family, it may be a native

pea collected by coastal peoples or accidentally included in the pit

fill. Larson has commented on the misuse of taxonomic names by

archeologists (1980a:75). The preceding discussion illustrates the

danger of imprecise use of common names.

It is possible to question most of the interpretations offered by

Wallace. However, he has presented interesting data and attempted

some ambitious analyses. The repeated use of statistical tests,

whether or not significant findings result, has the extremely useful

effect of requiring quantified observations. As a consequence,

reassessments and future comparative studies are possible.

The osteological analysis of the St. Simons skeletal series is

perhaps the best direct evidence yet available for the nutritional

status of the late aboriginal coastal peoples. James Zahler analyzed

the St. Simons materials and compared his findings with Hulse's Irene


mound skeletal data (Zahler 1976; Hulse 1941). He concluded that both

series were samples from the same, relatively heterogeneous population

(1976:44). Two differences between the series are important. First,

dental caries are "rather frequent" at the St. Simons settlement,

suggesting "an increased consumption of carbohydrates (maize) possibly

at the expense of nutritionally varied ecotone resources"

(1976:49-50). Second, "the incidence of bone pathology attributed to

anemia among the inhabitants of the St. Simons settlement does suggest

that the general health of the coastal population had deteriorated

during the contact period" (1976:49). Neither this indicator of

subsistence stress nor frequent caries were reported by Hulse for the

somewhat earlier Irene population.

It is also interesting to note that the osteological data fail to

confirm Wallace's hypothesized matrilocal residence pattern. Both

males and females appear to be about equally homogeneous in cranial

measurements (1976:46). In a matrilocal society, it would be expected

that the females would show less variability than the males. This is

true for the Savannah period skeletal series from the Irene Site but

not for the Irene period series from the Irene Site nor for the Irene

period series from the St. Simons sites. The decrease in the

difference between males and females is attributed by Zahler

(following Hulse 1941) to an increase in population density and

heterogeneity. It is assumed that a matrilocal postmarital residence

pattern was still in effect at historic contact, but there is no

osteological evidence for this (1975:46-47, 51).

Southern St. Simons Island

Another St. Simons Island mound excavation will be briefly

discussed before going on to the second major study concerning coastal

Georgia. Fred Cook has reported excavations at the Irene phase Kent

Mound on the south end of St. Simons Island (1978). He describes 32

burials (including 35 individuals), presents microseriation data based

on the mound construction sequence and attempts to quantify

subsistence data from the premound, early Irene shell midden. These

data constitute an important comparative sample for evaluation of

Wallace's northern St. Simons assemblage.

The burial excavations are described but not summarized or

analyzed in any way, a curious omission since this is the largest

recently excavated skeletal series from the coast. Twelve of the

burials were accompanied by aboriginal artifacts and two, which Cook

dates at A.D. 1550 to 1600, were furnished with both aboriginal and

historic grave goods. While the majority (20) are primary, flexed

interments, one primary prone burial, one bundle burial, one mass of

disarticulated bones representing three individuals, and two trophies

attest to a variety in burial practices not observed at Taylor Mound.

This perhaps calls for re-evaluation of the status differences

inferred from burial practices in Wallace's study.

Several interesting observations concerning micro-changes in the

Irene ceramic complex, both temporal and spatial, are reported. The

Kent Mound Irene pottery assemblage contains "significant" numbers of

sherds with grit and sherd or clay paste inclusions, in contrast to

the exclusively grit or gravel inclusions at the Irene Site. Recent

work with coastal clays suggests that this is an environmental

variable (Saffer 1979). Changes in the apparent popularity of several

rim decorative styles are seriated and, together with several other

attributes, suggest that the later mound pottery is transitional

between Irene and San Marcos. The incised variety of Irene pottery is

reported as increasing from virtual absence in the early Irene,

premound midden to over 80 percent in the latest burial. While this

is reported as a function of time, it seems likely that a

sacred/secular dichotomy may be reflected. Although Cook reports wear

and charring of "several" vessels as evidence of utilitarian usage,

these phenomena are not quantified. Mary Herron has studied the

multifunctional nature of ceramic surface treatment (1978). Check

stamping, in her St. Johns series sample, appears to have enhanced

heat transfer efficiency and to have facilitated handling of slippery

vessels. With regard to the Kent Mound mortuary vessels, Cook notes

"that over half of these vessels have a combination of surface

treatment that includes both filfot stamping and incising" (1978:93).

It would be interesting to know whether it is the stamped vessels

which exhibit charring.

Subsistence data from the early Irene premound midden are

presented. Biomass calculations, using a variety of techniques, are

offered but several methodological problems result in figures which

are neither mutually comparable within the sample nor directly

comparable with any other coastal faunal assemblage. Two examples

which illustrate the nature of these problems follow. First, meat

weight for oysters is calculated but is compared with live weight for


vertebrates (rather than usable meat weight). Second, the live weight

figure used for deer is the average of the midpoints of the ranges of

weights for male and female deer in North America (194 pounds).

Coastal and island deer are considerably smaller; Johnson et al. cite

an average weight of 60 pounds for Blackbeard Island specimens

(1974:59). Despite these difficulties, Cook's biomass figures are

probably valid as a basis for ranking the importance of major

subsistence resources. In decreasing order of importance, fish,

oysters, deer and raccoon are the major contributors. Other species

account for less than one percent of the total biomass. It is

interesting that Cook identified no sharks or rays, nor any birds, in

his sample. Floral remains included bedstraw (Gallium sp.),

copperleaf (Alcalypha virginica), maize (Zea mays), pokeweed

(Phytolacca americana) and squash or gourd (Curcurbita sp.). In

general, the faunal remains reflect the same pattern of usage seen at

other late prehistoric coastal sites and the floral sample confirms

ethnohistoric records of aboriginal horticulture.

Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island, on the central Georgia coast, is the location of a

second major archeological study of the late prehistoric period (Crook

1978). Ray Crook excavated a portion of the large Kenan Field Site,

which is a 60 ha area containing 589 shell middens and 2 earthen

mounds. In addition to new archeological data on the Savannah period,

a major contribution of this study is the well-integrated distillation

of ecological and ethnohistoric information which is offered as a

subsistence/settlement model.

Crook sees the Savannah phase adaptation as a dynamic system

composed of four distinctive, sequential subsystems, in each of which

the form of the social group is a response to the nature of the target

resources and the exploitive technology (1978:64). These are roughly

correlated with the seasons of the year and may be summarized as

follows (1978:46-64). Summer was the swidden harvest season and also

one of the two peak periods for fishing. Wild fruits, such as grapes,

persimmons and plums, would have been collected at this time. The

temporary surplus from swidden horticulture allowed aggregation of the

coastal population at strategically located town sites which, in turn,

facilitated information exchange and planning of future subsistence

pursuits. At the close of the harvest season, the towns emptied as

matrilineage groups of 20 to 25 persons moved into the oak forests to

harvest acorns and hickory nuts. A small group, probably the mico's

matrilineage, may have been resident year-round at the town site. In

addition, large segments of the population returned briefly to the

town for ceremonies at intervals throughout the year. Communal hunts

of white-tailed deer, attracted by oak mast and aggregated for their

breeding season, would have taken place at this time. While some

stored cultigens may have been eaten, the emphasis would have been on

accruing further supplies against the leaner winter and spring seasons

ahead. During the winter, subsistence efforts shifted to the

estuaries where fish were again plentiful and oysters were in prime

condition. Camps were located to provide estuarine access although

some upland hunting continued on an individual basis. The spring

planting season was the period of maximum population dispersal and

minimum social group size--one or two nuclear families. This

settlement shift was a response to the patchy distribution of soils

suitable for horticulture and to the general scarcity of food

resources. This time of subsistence stress came to an end with the

first harvests in mid-summer.

Crook's model is presented in narrative form but the

archeologically recoverable correlates of the described behavioral

system may be easily specified:

1) Small sites with spring/early summer species scattered

across best agricultural soils are probably swidden

plot camps.

2) Medium sites with fall species in oak forest areas are

hunting/nutting camps.

3) Medium sites with winter species located adjacent to

estuaries are fishing/shellfishing camps.

4) Large sites with a wide range of seasonal indicators on

best agricultural soil adjacent to estuaries are towns.

This is, of course, a simplified picture of the system. In reality, a

wide variety of intermediate, special purpose and combination

settlement types would be expected.

The model is constructed from two kinds of information: current

environmental data and ethnohistoric observations of coastal

populations. Keeping in mind the effects of historic period

agriculture on upland ground cover and consequent silting, most


archeologists grant that modern environmental conditions are close to

those of the late prehistoric period. The applicability of

ethnohistoric information to earlier periods (as early as the

beginning of the Savannah period, A.D. 1000) is open to question.

Some vacillation on Crook's part concerning just what is represented

in the Spanish narratives is apparent in contrasting two statements he

makes during discussion of his model:

since it is predominantly constructed with evidence
contained in accounts of early historic period (pre-
1600), elements of a purely aboriginal form should be
represented. The most intensive acculturation of the
Guale accompanied the renewed mission efforts that fol-
lowed the 1597 Guale revolt. (1978:46)

Certain elements of the system were certainly already
affected by European influences, since the model is
constructed with data from between 1560 and 1600, more
than 40 years after Allyon's first contact with the
coastal groups and in the midst of deliberate accultur-
ation attempts by the early missionaries. (1978:70)

Though contradictory, these statements are useful in that they

illustrate the need for archeological corroboration of the accuracy of

ethnohistoric interpretations. Because of the nature of the contact

situation, "elements of a purely aboriginal form" cannot be assumed

simply on grounds of early observation. Since Crook wrote, evidence

of repeated contacts during the period 1515-1530 has been presented by

Hoffman (1980).

Archeological data from Kenan Field, including subsistence

information, architectural detail and spatial distribution of

artifacts, were evaluated in light of the implications of this model.

Crook dates most of the excavated contexts to the Savannah phase which

he brackets at A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1540. If, as intended, the

ethnohistoric/ecological model is valid for the Savannah phase, then

the portion of Kenan Field which was studied can be described as a

town. It is a large site located on a preferred agricultural soil

type adjacent to the estuary. Faunal materials representative of

every season of the year were found. An earthen mound and several

large, post-supported structures indicate an occupation of

considerable permanence involving a major population aggregation.

These features are perhaps the most interesting finds at Kenan Field

as they represent communal buildings of a form and scale hitherto

unreported for the Georgia coast. Crook interprets the structures as

large, low platforms which accomodated both domestic and public

functions. These large buildings constitute the best archeological

evidence for the level of organization of coastal cultures inferred

from ethnohistoric sources.

Through a series of hypotheses and loosely related test

implications, Crook attempts to demonstrate that Savannah society was

segmented, ranked and organized according to a formal spatial plan.

While limited aspects of these hypotheses are well-substantiated, for

the most part the implications are stated in such general terms that

virtually any observation of non-random distribution would constitute

a positive implication. For example, a "formal village plan which

reflects the adaptations of a ranked society to environmental factors"

is hypothesized. Test implications are "patterned arrangement of

structural remains," "socially and/or functionally distinct

structures," etc. (1978:9). The problem is that archeological data

from a non-ranked society might also be expected to show patterned

arrangements and social/functional distinctions.

The analysis of subsistence data from Kenan Field is innovative

and somewhat unorthodox. Crook reports selected results for different

structures and features; selections vary according to what aspects are

being interpreted. As there is no summary table, it is difficult to

compare the assemblage as a whole with results from other coastal

sites. What is most valuable, however, is the attempt to confront the

problem of determining seasonality of archeological assemblages from

the southeastern coast. Three primary categories of seasonality

indicators are used: fish, reptiles and molluscs. Of these, the

quahog clam data is most convincing (but compare Clark's 1979

differing interpretation). Season of death, based on terminal growth

ring measurement, is consistently a fall/winter occurrence. Oysters

are interpreted as being primarily a late fall/winter resource because

1) in the spring, summer, and early fall oysters are in poor condition

due to spawning and disease, and 2) because they are found in

association with the fall/winter-dated quahogs. While this seems

reasonable enough, it actually involves interpretation by ethnographic

analogy, projecting modern cultural preferences on aboriginal

behavior. Crook relies heavily on this interpretation of oysters as

winter food in his assessment of the Kenan Field data. The use of

reptiles as seasonal indicators, based on winter dormancy and

therefore inaccessibility, is questionable for a different reason.

Although activity is reduced in winter, the climate of the Georgia

coast is relatively mild and snakes can be seen basking in sunny spots

on midwinter afternoons. In fact, one might argue that snakes would

be more frequently added to the midden in winter since when it is cold

they move slowly and are easily killed. On a presence/absence basis,

reptiles cannot be considered reliable seasonality indicators; in a

large sample relative proportions might be significant.

Fish compose the most abundant class of animals recovered from

coastal sites and their potential use to infer season of occupation

is, for this reason, promising. The comparative sample used by Reitz

(1979a), Crook (1978), Pearson (1979) and others is based on modern

trawl catches (Dahlberg 1975; Mahood, Harris, Music, and Palmer 1974).

One important limitation of the trawl data as a predictor of

aboriginal resource availability is the technological difference

between aboriginal and modern fishing practices. While the Indians

may have used nets, weirs, hook and line, and spears, and probably

employed dugout canoes to reach a variety of estuarine habitats, the

trawl sample was limited to the major waterways and larger tidal

creeks and involved one type of net only. These data, with recognized

limitations, are probably accurate reflections of the varying species

composition of estuarine waters. However, unless archeological

samples are large enough so that relative abundances, not simple

presence or absence, can be observed, seasonality interpretations

based on fish are inconclusive. Although individual species as

seasonal indicators are often ambiguous, aggregates of indicators

should produce fairly reliable bracketing of occupation. Again, large

sample size seems to be the key to accuracy.

While interpretation of relative importance of various species

was not a major goal in the Kenan Field study, the screening routine

resulted in a sample which probably underestimates the occurrence of

smaller animals, especially fish. Quarter-inch screen was used to

sift 94 percent of the sample; only 6 percent was fine-screened. The

apparent emphasis on white-tailed deer may be a consequence of this


Although more rigorous hypothesis testing procedures would be

desirable, this does not detract from the significance of the

empirical data. Crook's major contributions are a well-integrated

subsistence/settlement model, new information on the scale and

complexity of coastal public architecture, and a direct confrontation

with the complexities of determining seasonality in coastal

subsistence assemblages. He presents convincing evidence that quahogs

were harvested in winter and that aboriginal use of oysters produced

beneficial effects on oyster growth by "thinning" the population.

Ossabaw Island

The third major study utilizes data from Ossabaw Island on the

north portion of the Georgia coast. Charles Pearson surveyed the

island and conducted limited test excavations at some of the 65

Mississippian period sites in the sample of 203 aboriginal sites

(Pearson 1979). The purpose of the study was to compare the

settlement/subsistence patterns of the two late prehistoric

archeological cultures, Savannah and Irene, with the expectation that

contrasts would reflect adaptive changes. Continuities between the

Savannah and Irene assemblages are strong, indicating in-place

development through time of a single cultural group.

Pearson's settlement sample consisted of surface collections from

the set of 65 Mississippian period sites containing 12 Savannah phase

(A.D. 1150-1350) and 61 Irene phase (A.D. 1350-1550) components.

Surface area was the only metric variable available from all sites.

It is important to note that area is not a direct measure of intensity

or duration of occupation. Also, depending on historic period

agricultural practices and erosion, the density of surface artifacts

could vary widely. Surface area was used to develop ranked groups of

sites presumed to reflect some functional differences. These groups

were then evaluated against environmental and cultural variables to

determine whether differences correlated with size could be detected.

Subsistence information was derived from 26 middens at 5 sites, 3

Irene and 2 Savannah. Vertebrate faunal samples were collected from

1-m square units in each midden using 1/4 in. mesh screens. These

samples yielded 47 MNI for the 2 Savannah sites (13 middens) and 37

MNI for the 3 Irene sites (13 middens). Invertebrate species were

analyzed for 3 middens using 2 to 4 kg complete matrix column samples.

These samples were also used to reconstruct the total contents of the

midden for the purpose of comparing molluscan and vertebrate

contributions to the diet.

In a site size distribution comparison of the two samples,

Pearson observed that, while both systems appeared to be dominated by

a single centrally and optimally located primate settlement, other

significant differences in system structure existed. Since the term


"primate" has a very different meaning for geographers than it has for

anthropologists, a brief explanation is warranted. A primate

settlement distribution is one in which there are gaps in the array of

site sizes so that one or two very large (primate) sites dominate the

settlement system. In contrast, a system conforming to the rank-size

rule exhibits a log-normal distribution in which the site sizes form a

continuum (Hodder and Orton 1976:69-73). The Savannah pattern is

described as nucleatedd" and is characterized by the dominance of a

single very large site over very few small and relatively few

medium-size sites. The Irene pattern seems to include many small

sites which may represent temporary or seasonal occupations associated

with a single or narrow range of activities (1979:66). For this

reason, it is described as "dispersed." When sites in each size class

are examined with respect to four key environmental variables, it is

found that the largest sites occupy the most favorable settlement

locations. It is the smallest sites in the Irene system which exhibit

the most variability with respect to environmental characteristics.

Pearson has convincingly demonstrated differences between the

Savannah and Irene phase settlement structures which can be summarized

in terms of nucleation or dispersal of the population. Similarities

are apparently related to environmental factors affecting efficient

exploitation of marsh-estuary resources, conditions for year-round

settlement and feasibility of agriculture (1979:124). The shift from

a nucleated to a dispersed settlement structure is explained as a

reflection of the pan-Southeastern breakdown of the highly complex and

structured Mississipppian socio-political organization which resulted

in the less complex historic groups for which we have ethnohistoric

records. According to Pearson, this change took place on the Georgia

coast before European contact (1979:125). The relationship between

nucleation and warfare is noted and it is suggested that eventual soil

exhaustion may have necessitated the dispersal of horticultural plots.

Subsistence information was examined to determine whether the

observed differences in settlement could be attributed to subsistence

pattern differences. The samples described earlier were evaluated

with respect to species, relative abundance, seasonality and temporal

contrasts. Major conclusions are reviewed below.

1) Mammals provided 96 and 98 percent of the estimated non-

molluscan meat yield (White's method) for Savannah and

Irene phases (respectively). White-tailed deer accounted

for 78 and 85 percent of the corresponding totals, with the

remainder coming from only two sources, raccoon and marsh


2) Fish constituted the second most important vertebrate food

source, providing 3.3 and 1.6 percent of the Savannah and

Irene estimated meat yields.

3) No significant difference was found between the two phases

in the range of species exploited, and concentration indices

showed no significant differences in intensity of exploita-


The rank ordering of subsistence contribution by species as

observed by Pearson is substantially different from that found at

Kings Bay and in several other coastal samples. The apparent emphasis

on mammals at Ossabaw is probably a consequence of the use of 1/4 in.

screen. This can be demonstrated by evaluating vertebrate remains

from Pearson's 1/16 in. screened column samples (1979:182-186). Total

osseous weights for the three middens are as follows: mammal 1.3 g

(6.9 percent), nonmammal vertebrate 16.02 g (85.1 percent) and

unidentified 1.51 g (8.0 percent). While osseous weight is not

directly comparable to other measures of importance, it is obvious

that the premier ranking of mammals is not substantiated.

The observed narrow range of mammalian exploitation and the

absence of differences between Savannah and Irene inventories may be a

consequence of sample size. The small sample simply underestimates

the occurrence of rare events so that they appear to be nonexistent.

The recommended adequate sample of 200 MNI (Wing and Brown

1979:118-121) should be obtained before prehistoric extirpation of

missing species is posited, as Pearson does here.

A final major conclusion derived from Pearson's subsistence

samples concerns the relative importance of molluscan versus

vertebrate species based on complete matrix column samples. The high

estimated potential invertebrate meat yield (85.3, 95.1, and 98.7

percent) is said to demonstrate an extremely heavy reliance on

molluscs (1979:190). While this is true for the computations

performed on the measurements of these archeologically recovered

materials, several assumptions are necessary to extend this conclusion

to the diet of the Ossabaw Mississippian population in general. Three

examples are given below. First, it must be assumed that vertebrate

and invertebrate materials are deposited in the same refuse piles in

proportions representative of their dietary importance. Since no

nonshell midden contexts were sampled, differential deposition

patterns, if present, would not have been apparent. Second, it must

be assumed that molluscan and nonmolluscan remains are preserved and

recovered in representative proportions. Given the greater fragility

of bone in the face of mechanical and chemical breakdown, this is

unlikely. Finally, it must be assumed that the sampled middens are

representative of year-round subsistence emphases. Crook has argued

that oyster exploitation would have been much more efficient during

the winter season than at other times (1978:251). Given the

scattered, seasonal character of most coastal resources, it is

unlikely that a single type of context, for example a winter oyster

midden, would be representative of year-round subsistence, even at a

permanently occupied site.

In view of the problems indicated above, it is doubtful that

direct comparison of estimated meat yields for vertebrate and

invertebrate midden contents gives an accurate picture of relative

dietary importance. I would be reluctant to accept Pearson's

conclusion of the "overwhelming importance" of the shellfish

contribution to the faunal segment of the diet (1979:191-192). This

is not to argue that oysters were not a critical resource. It is

simply reluctance to accept the implied seasonal, spatial and

preservational homogeneity.

Evidence for floral components in the diet is limited, as

expected from the experience of other coastal researchers. Specimens

reported are pignut hickory nut fragments (Carya glabra) and palm

berry (Sabal palmetto) (Pearson 1979:197,237-253).

Pearson's study of Ossabaw Island represents the first

Southeastern coastal settlement pattern study founded on a

comprehensive data base from a naturally defined locality. For this

reason, his observations have a coherence lacking in individual site

studies or compendia of site studies. He has provided convincing

evidence of a shift in settlement pattern between the Savannah and

Irene phases and has hypothesized functional distinctions between

levels of each settlement hierarchy. It is suggested that the

settlement shift may be related to horticultural intensification

during the Mississippian period. Two recurrent problems in

archeological interpretation present obstacles to the direct

application of Pearson's results. The first is the assumption that

surface site size is directly proportional to population size. For a

single occupation, area occupied probably is the best archeological

estimator of population. However, it is very difficult to tell the

difference between a single, large, concurrently occupied area

representing a large population aggregate and a large, sequentially

occupied accretion representing many small groups over a period of

time. This is especially true in coastal shell midden sites. Thus,

important structural differences may be masked when a single

parameter, such as site size, is used to estimate population.

A second, related interpretive problem lies in Pearson's

chronological assumptions. When both Savannnah and Irene are treated

as prehistoric cultures, the cause of the settlement shift must be

sought in prehistoric processes. If, as some authors have suggested,

Irene is a protohistoric, not prehistoric, phenomenon, explanatory

hypotheses incorporating acculturative processes and demographic

consequences (such as effects of introduced diseases) are readily

formulated. The dating of the Irene phase is anything but secure.

Pearson assigns a range of A.D. 1350 to A.D. 1550, on the basis of

Irene mound stratigraphy and radiocarbon determinations from St.

Catherines Island. However, the most frequently cited source for the

St. Catherines dates contains no determinations for Irene contexts and

does not discuss the Irene phase at all (Caldwell 1971:88-92). Irene

mounds containing European materials are common and similarities

between Irene ceramic types and mission phase San Marcos series

pottery suggest continuity (Cook 1978:127-133). The possibility that

the settlement pattern shift observed by Pearson is causally related

to European contact during the pre-mission, exploration period is an

alternative hypothesis which should be considered, at least until

better control of coastal chronology is achieved.

Pearson offers a comparative analysis of Savannah and Irene

subsistence data as evidence that the settlement shift is not related

to a change in subsistence patterns. It is probable, however, that

the sample is too small to permit distinctions to be made between

intraphase and interphase variability, especially in view of the

seasonality of resources and mobility of population that are expected

in the coastal environment.

New Ethnohistoric Perspectives

In addition to the preceding studies based on archeological

evidence from recent research, a re-examination by Grant Jones of the

documentary record furnishes yet another interpretation of Guale

subsistence, settlement and sociopolitical patterns. Jones believes

that Guale subsistence was based on a combination of horticulture,

hunting and collecting sufficiently productive to support "permanent

towns, a chiefdom level of social organization, temporary federations

of chiefdoms under centralized leadership, and long distance trade

networks. The chiefdoms were characterized by dual features of

political organization and an emphasis on matrilineal succession"

(1978:179). Jones' confidence in Guale horticulture is based on

documentary references to the large amounts of cultivated foods

furnished to the Spaniards and on references to the availability of

stored maize as late in the year as April. He rejects Larson's

characterization of the settlement pattern, claiming that the Jesuit

reports of small, shifting communities were exaggerated and misleading

(1978:191). Larson has interpreted this pattern as an adaptation to

the low fertility and scattered distribution of small areas of soil

suitable for horticulture which is typical of the coastal region

(1980a:206-209). Jones contends that, in fact, the Guale dispersed in

an effort to escape Jesuit interference in their affairs, so that what

the missionaries reported was an evasive action, not a subsistence

strategy. Jones quite clearly would reject Crook's

subsistence/settlement model:

While it seems possible that domesticated animals ef-
fected a reduction in winter hunting activity and thus a
change in a hypothetical pattern of winter residential
mobility, there is no reported pattern of mobility for
even earliest periods of Guale history. While the ab-
sence of evidence does not assure us that the pattern did
not exist, there is ample evidence that at least the prin-
cipal towns were occupied during the winter. While small
hunting parties undoubtedly went out for short periods,
the faunal resources of the Coastal Sector were suffi-
ciently diverse, rich, and compact that residential mobil-
ity was probably not necessary. (1978:194)

It must be noted that the statement "there is no reported pattern of

mobility for even earliest periods of Guale history" is predicated on

a flat rejection of Jesuit reports of just such a pattern (Larson

1980a:206-209). Laudonniere and Le Moyne also reported a winter

dispersal pattern, but this refers to the Timucuan populations in the

St. Johns River area (Bennett 1975:15-16; 1968:44).

Sites which may represent the camps of small hunting parties have

recently been identified on the mainland. Major habitation sites are

located on high ground adjacent to the salt marsh, but sporadic

aboriginal use of interior areas within the tidewater region is

apparent. Richard Zurel, Tom Gresham and David Hally surveyed

portions of the Big Mortar-Snuff Box Swamp Watershed in Long and

McIntosh Counties, west of Sapelo Island (1975). They recorded a

large number of small, low artifact density sites (including Savannah

and Irene sites) in this predominantly low, poorly-drained region.

These are interpreted as representing very brief occupations by small

numbers of people for the purpose of exploiting distinctive resources

of the freshwater swamp-forest ecological zone. The authors do not

indicate what resources may have been sought in this zone but soils

most suitable for horticulture are distributed along two sand ridges

which define the southeastern and southwestern margins of the

watershed. The Barrier Island Sand Ridge composes the eastern margin

of the mainland and corresponds to the major linear zone of aboriginal

occupation at Kings Bay. The Altamaha Sand Ridge parallels the

Altamaha River along the southwestern boundary of the watershed and

includes soils which elsewhere on the coast are good predictors of

aboriginal site location. Well-drained soils suitable for

horticulture are almost nonexistent in the interior portion of the

watershed. On the basis of ceramic similarities, the authors suggest

that these sites and contemporaneous sites on the nearby barrier

islands are the product of a single population. No permanent

occupation of the interior watershed region is indicated


As an alternative model of the Guale settlement/subsistence

pattern, Jones proposes the "dispersed town" (1978:192). These

ceremonial and food storage centers consisted of a few public

buildings and a chunky ground located near the salt marsh with

individual houses and associated garden plots scattered through the

adjoining forest. It should be noted that this relatively fixed

arrangement of horticultural plots around an administrative nucleus is

based on observations from the close of the mission period (1666,

1670, 1696). By this time, population reductions would have relieved

pressure to disperse and Carolinean depredations would have fostered

nucleation for defense. It cannot be claimed, on the basis of

available evidence, that permanent dispersed towns are reflective of

prehistoric or even protohistoric settlement patterns.

Significantly, Jones believes the principal towns and the

majority of the population was located on the mainland along the major

rivers prior to 1607. This would suggest that later, relocated

mission towns would be established on sites lacking major

accumulations of early mission period debris. Conversely, early

period primary towns would lack significant deposits of late

materials. While this improves prospects for separation of contexts,

it means that archeological evidence reflective of acculturative

change during the mission period is not likely to be forthcoming from

a single site. Currently available information about mainland sites

does not confirm Jones' population distribution hypothesis since the

only really large site on the coast is the Irene Site on the Savannah

River. However, very little large-scale survey work has been

completed on the mainland. A recent report of survey work in the

northeastern corner of Camden County indicates that Mississippian

period occupations are well-represented in this area. Eight of the

nine sites reported by Kirkland yielded Savannah phase artifacts; the

ninth produced no artifacts. Over 75 percent of the sample from the

largest site (3.2 ha) was assignable to Wilmington and Savannah series

(Kirkland 1979). This is an indication of how much remains to be

learned about late prehistoric period coastal population size and


Arguing that the Guale possessed a productive economy and

permanent settlements, Jones goes on to claim that their

sociopolitical organization and cultural development was considerably

more complex than has been acknowledged by previous researchers. He

has reconstructed, based on documentary clues to "intercommunity

social relations," three chiefdoms consisting of pairs of primary

towns and associated constellations of secondary towns and

settlements. The towns of individual chiefdoms seem to have

participated frequently in joint ceremonies and feasts, while the

chiefdoms were capable of effectively uniting against a common enemy.

There are no indications that such federations existed prior to the

arrival of the Spaniards.

In other details of social and political organization Jones

generally agrees with previous readings of the documents. His major

contribution is an emphasis on tighter chronological control in

evaluation of the ethnohistoric data. He defines three periods within

which generalizations can be extended and between which comparisons

can be made. These are 1526-1586, from Allyon's colony to the

abandonment of Santa Elena, 1587-1607, encompassing the precipitation

and aftermath of the 1597 rebellion and representing Guale political

strength at its peak, and 1607-1684, during which the island chain of

missions was solidified but the Guale people suffered decline. As

noted earlier, first contact is now believed to have occurred between

1514 and 1516, which would lengthen the first period by about a decade

(Hoffman 1980). To the extent that archeological sites can be

assigned to one or another of these periods, it will be possible to

confirm or reject many of Jones' interpretations.


It is clear from the preceding discussion that, while there is

general agreement among active researchers on what questions should be

asked at coastal sites, there is little accord on how these questions

should be asked. Different sampling and analysis techniques prevent

intersite comparison of subsistence patterns, except at a very general

level. Yet subsistence is the single most commonly addressed topic.

In the remainder of this study the results of previous coastal

research will be used selectively, with emphasis on the data and

topics best handled in each project. Thus Larson's work will be used

for its comprehensive subsistence resource descriptions, Wallace's

work for data on burial practices, Crook's study for the

subsistence/settlement model, and Pearson's research for settlement

pattern information.

The basic picture of coastal adaptation which emerges from these

studies is of a broad spectrum economy in which fish, shellfish and

deer were primary sources of animal protein. Little direct evidence

for the use of wild plant foods has been found but it is agreed that

acorns and hickory nuts must have been seasonal staples. The

importance of horticulture is a topic for which there are widely

varying opinions backed by minimal evidence. All of these foods would

have exhibited seasonal peaks of abundance resulting in a diet which

varied in composition through the year. Resources, including

horticultural soils, were patchy in distribution, preventing large

population aggregates of long duration. Two strategies for coping

with this environmental limitation have been hypothesized: a dispersed

town settlement pattern and a pattern of seasonal fissioning and

mobility. Pearson's data indicate an increasing tendency through time

toward dispersion. It is not known whether this was seasonal,

shifting dispersal or permanent, low density settlement, nor is it

clear whether the change occurred before or after contact. Some

degree of segmentation of the population may be indicated by the

burial data. There is, however, no evidence of the rich ceremonial

material culture found elsewhere in the Southeast at this time. The

few somewhat richly accompanied burials are of adult males, perhaps

indicative of chiefly status but there is no consistent evidence for a

class of elevated status. The differences in burial practices thought

to mark class differences when found in mound versus cemetery contexts

at one site occur all together in a mound at another site on the same

island. Mounds, large-scale buildings, and palisades attest to

communal construction efforts presumably directed by a chiefly

authority and subsidized by communal stores of food.

At least half a century elapsed between initial contact (during

which time there were repeated contacts) and recording of "early"

ethnohistoric accounts at the beginning of the mission effort. It is

now evident that the processes which resulted in extinction of the

coastal aboriginal way of life a century later were set in motion

quite early in the 1500s. The next task is to identify which elements

of the system were earliest affected, in order to more accurately

employ ethnohistoric accounts in modeling prehistoric cultures.

This chapter has presented the substantive findings of several

recent, major studies of the late prehistoric period. These results,


together with their supporting ethnographic and ethnohistoric

analogies, constitute a set of criteria for judging what questions may

reasonably and practically be considered at coastal sites. In terms

of the method of inductive confirmation introduced in the next

chapter, the previous research for this locality provides a set of

plausibility considerations for formulating hypotheses applicable to

the Kings Bay data.


The Use of Models

The problem focus of this study is the task of assessing an

anthropological/archeological model to evaluate its explanatory power

and its value as an approximation of past reality. It is important to

specify the significance of the term "model" as used here because this

term has become a popular buzzword in archeological literature and is

sometimes invoked to lend substance to insubstantial discussions. Two

major essays on model use have reviewed the many types and

applications of models which are currently fashionable (Haggett and

Chorley 1967; Clarke 1972). In general, a model may be described as a

simplified and intelligible representation of reality. The elements

of the model are articulated in a known manner which is presumed to

accurately reflect the articulation of the real elements in the

phenomenon of interest. If a reasonable degree of correspondence

between model elements and interrelationships and real world elements

and interrelationships can be achieved, then the model may be used to

predict the nature of those aspects of the phenomenon which are not

susceptible to observation. This approach to knowing is reflected in

a discussion of ecosystem structure by the ecologist Margalef


The main point is that the "real" structure of
an ecosystem is a property that remains out of reach,
but this complete structure is reflected in many
aspects of the ecosystem that can be subjected to
observation: in the distribution of individuals into
species, in the pattern of the food net, in the dis-
tribution of total assimilatory pigments in kinds of
pigments, and so on.

The process of creating close correspondence between the model

and the real world--tuning the model--results in a higher level of

detail and specificity and in better predictions. In as much as any

model is a simplification and approximation of reality, it is expected

that the model will go through many iterations before a provisionally

acceptable form will be realized.

Models thus form a bridge between the observational and

theoretical levels of investigation; in the process they serve several

functions. They are conceptual tools which facilitate the

visualization and comprehension of a complex or diverse phenomenon;

they are organizational tools which aid in the collection and ordering

of relevant data; and they are logical devices which explain how the

parts of a whole are related or how events precipitate an occurrence

(Haggett and Chorley 1967:24). It is the logical function which is

important in the present context. The model to be evaluated in this

study is composed of a series of interrelated, interlocking hypotheses

concerning settlement and subsistence strategies in a particular

region. It is not the model itself which will be formally tested, but

the individual hypotheses. Rejection of a hypothesis would not, then,

negate the validity of the model; rather, it would require revision of

the related portion of the model.

Ecological Models

Ecologically-based models are frequently used by archeologists.

This approach is founded on the premise that the structure and

dynamics of the cultural subsystem of a region's ecosystem may be

studied in the same manner as other biological subsystems. Important

energy exchanges between the cultural system and the environment are

most easily seen when both are modeled in similar terms.

The ecological paradigm seeks explanations of cultural

similarities and differences in an analysis of solutions developed by

cultures for the problems of making a living and perpetuating life.

These solutions involve interactions with both the natural and social

components of the environment. Material interactions are most easily

and most often studied, but it is recognized that information

exchanges may also have critical survival value.

Subsistence is the primary material interaction susceptible to

archeological analysis; the food quest is a principal topic of the

studies reviewed in Chapter 3 and of the coastal adaptation models

described in Chapter 5. Given the dispersed, diverse natural

resources and the marginal conditions for horticulture which

characterize the southeastern coastal region, it should be possible to

describe a subsistence/settlement strategy which solves both universal

and uniquely coastal problems and evokes characteristic social and

ideological arrangements. This contention--that the manner in which

energy exchanges with the environment are handled by a human

population affects the form of more abstract aspects of culture--is a

basic tenet of cultural materialism.

Cultural Materialism

Cultural materialism is a well-developed theoretical stance in

anthropology which states that the subsystems of a cultural system are

hierarchically arranged and deterministically interconnected. The

three primary subsystems are the infrastructure, consisting of

productive and reproductive arrangements, the structure, composed of

the domestic and political economies, and the superstructure,

encompassing a variety of esthetic, athletic and intellectual

pursuits. It is the infrastructure which constitutes the

culture/environment interface and conditions the form and content of

the structure and superstructure (Harris 1979:51-53).

Since it was first offered in 1968, Harris' version of the

cultural materialist paradigm has gained wide acceptance among

archeologists. In a recent restatement of his position, Harris has

chosen to emphasize the observational process by which this underlying

structure is revealed. He contends that there are at least four valid

domains of observation in the study of human behavior. These four

categories are formed by the intersection of two observational

perspectives with two modes of action: the emic and etic points of

view with the behavioral and mental realms of activity. What Harris

stresses is that, in any single situation, there can be at least four

different observations, each of which is valid within its own frame of

reference. This scheme is shown below; the example of the Georgia

oyster is substituted for the well-known Kerala sacred cow:



Domains of Anthropological Observation

Emic Etic

No oysters Summer
are eaten oysters are
in summer, sometimes eaten.

Summer oysters Gather oysters
are bad to when other
eat. (thin and foods are scarce.

The value of knowing the contents of all four domains, if one

wishes to thoroughly understand the habitat and niche interactions of

a particular population, is obvious. According to the cultural

materialist principle of infrastructural determinism, "the etic

behavioral modes of production and reproduction probabalistically

determine the etic behavioral domestic and political economy, which in

turn probabalistically determine the behavioral and mental emic

superstructure" (1979:55-56).

In the case of an ethnographic study, completion of the chart is

a relatively straightforward exercise, although, as Harris notes, it

is difficult to state "the locus of the reality" of rules I and IV

(1979:38). However, in an archeological situation, only one domain

(II) is readily satisfied. Assessment of the remaining three is much

more tenuous, as there are no informants to query for domains I and

III and the procedures for arriving at IV are seldom explicit. Two

sources of information are commonly substituted for direct observation

in archeological studies: ethnohistoric data and ecological data.

The manner in which these are employed is indicated in the following


Domains of Archeological Observation

Emic Etic



Although it is often the case that all of these types of information

will be accounted for somewhere in an archeological study, it is

seldom true that each is presented clearly and separately before being

freely combined in the customary "synthesis." Thus one of the reasons

it is difficult to specify exactly our empirical knowledge to date of

late prehistoric adaptations is that few studies allow extraction of

just their Etic/Behavioral observations. Once the boundaries between

the domains of ethnohistoric/graphic analogy, archeological data,

ecological analogy and inference are relaxed, the resulting

reconstruction is difficult to evaluate objectively. Harris has

commented on this relaxation of intellectual vigilance (1979:33-34):

Possibly reported Direct archeological
in ethnohistoric data, e.g. oyster
sources; ethnograph- shell deposit con-
ic analogy from training summer
modern population in seasonality indica-
same or comparable tors.

Inferred from eco- Inferred from model;
logical data, i.e. usually thought to
an educated guess be most accurate
at aboriginal rea- interpretation of
sons for choices, adaptive niche.

All notions of replicability and testability fly
up the chimney when the world as seen by the observed
is capriciously muddled with the world as seen by the
observer. . .research strategies that fail to distin-
guish between mental and behavioral stream events
and between emic and etic operations cannot develop
coherent networks of theories embracing the causes
of sociocultural differences and similarities.

Archeological Inference

While Harris has been primarily concerned with ways of knowing

and with the epistemology of anthropological theories, archeologists

have been wrestling with the problem of interpreting observations.

Since a review of this struggle would encompass an intellectual

history of the new archeology and is clearly beyond the scope of the

present study, it is convenient that Bruce Smith has recently analyzed

patterns of archeological reasoning (1977). He reviews Merrilee

Salmon's argument that the hypothetico-deductive (H-D) method, which

has long been claimed as a hallmark of the new archeology, is not in

fact deductive, nor is it what archeologists who claim to employ

scientific methods of reasoning actually do (B. Smith 1977:600; Salmon

1976). Simply stated, archeologists do not employ the H-D method

because their observational predictions (test implications) are not

deduced from their hypotheses. That is to say, the logical

relationship that the predictions must be true if the hypothesis is

true does not hold (B. Smith 1977:602). The hypothetico-analog (H-A)

method of inductive inference which Smith proposes as an alternative

is based on work by Wesley Salmon (1967, 1973) and Merrilee Salmon

(1976) with modifications for application to specifically

archeological situations. Salient characteristics of the H-A method

are listed in a stepwise fashion below:

1) limitation of alternative hypotheses: plausibility consider-

ations are employed to determine whether a hypothesis has

sufficient prior probability to merit serious consideration.

Analogies drawn between attributes of behavior or debris

patterns under investigation and attributes of a reference

class of relevant cases (ethnohistoric, ethnographic, eco-

logical, geographical) gauge the plausibility of the hypothe-

sized explanation.

2) multiple working hypotheses: alternative explanations of

approximately equivalent plausibility are entertained.

3) inductive format: observational predictions (test impli-

cations) are inferred from hypotheses.

4) bridging arguments: arguments of relevance establishing

a logical link between each observational prediction and

its hypothesis are explicitly stated.

5) evaluation of hypotheses: hypotheses are checked by compar-

ing archeological observations with observational predictions

and assessing results in terms of:

a. number of observational predictions found to be empir-

ically true.

b. variety of observational predictions found to be empir-

ically true.

c. significance of the observational predictions found to be

empirically true.

d. simplicity of the hypothesis.

e. number of observational predictions found to be empir-

ically false.

The process of H-A inductive inference is diagramed in Figure 3.

It is the fourth step which is probably most frequently neglected

in archeological reasoning. Although it is often acknowledged that

assumptions should be stated, there has not previously been a formal

place for this in the reasoning process. The process itself is, as

Smith says, "lengthy, complicated, and often frustrating" (some would

say tedious) but it provides a framework within which conclusions can

be evaluated without reference to the experience or other credentials

of the investigator (1977:614). It is this objectivity that makes the

difference between useful, substantive contributions and archeological

just-so stories.

As an illustration of the type of reasoning common in current

research, and of the explication necessary to bring it into line with

the procedures described above, an example from the Georgia coast will

be evaluated (Larson 1980a:224-226). The problem area is aboriginal

dietary composition and the hypothesis states that "in the coastal

sector the plant resources probably provided an equal, if not greater,

part of the total subsistence" than animal resources (1980a:224).

Though unstated, a plausibility consideration that must have

influenced entertainment of this hypothesis is the ethnographic data

on the contribution of plant foods to the diets of modern

hunter/gatherers. The observational prediction to be checked against

the archeological data--though not stated--seems to be that remains of

animal resources would account for half or fewer of the nutrients
















_ ..
,D ..Iu

+0 +++


0 0

1101 0
0. 0

Q4~ (I (A,










required by the population. Reconstruction of the midden contents and

estimation of the person/days represented is presented in narrative

fashion and incorporates the bridging arguments given below. The

items in parentheses are unstated assumptions or corrections.

1) The midden represents the refuse accumulation of one winter

season, a four-month period.

a. blue crab claws were found in the midden.

b. blue crabs move into deep water after mid-December and

are not available for the remainder of the winter.

c. there has been no marked climatic change in the last 500


d. therefore, the crabs probably were not caught later than

early December.

e. (by analogy to ethnohistorically documented behavior,

winter camps were established in early winter and aban-

doned at the beginning of the agricultural season.)

f. abandonment would have occurred after the last killing

frost, in mid-March.

2) One midden is said to represent the refuse produced by one

nuclear family composed of five persons.

a. (each family generated one and only one midden.)

3) The number of Kcal provided from animal sources can be deter-

mined by calculating the biomass represented by a shell mid-


a. (the midden is homogeneous.)

b. for molluscs, meat weight is directly proportional to

shell weight.

c. (remains representing all animal Kcal are present in the

midden in amounts proportional to their use.)

d. (food remains in the midden were deposited there in the

same season in which the food was procured and eaten.)

4) The midden biomass divided by 120 days and 5 people represents

12 oz of oyster meat and 4 oz of other meat per person-day.

a. "the nutritional value of oysters is roughly equivalent

to beef and probably to venison also" (1980a:226). (This

is not accurate: oysters contain 66 Kcal, 8.4 g protein

and 1.8 g fat per 100 g of raw meat while venison contains

126 Kcal, 21 g of protein and 4 g of fat per 100 g of raw

meat (Watt and Merrill 1975:42, 65). Very lean cuts of

beef are comparable to venison but most beef contains

larger amounts of fat and therefore more Kcal.

b. the oysters and other meat provided 650 to 800 Kcal per

day. (In fact the quantities of meat calculated actually

represent about 370 Kcal and 52 g of protein.)

c. Kcal from meat would not have satisfied the individual

daily requirement, ranging from 1400 to 3700 Kcal, so

large amounts of plant food must have been consumed.

d. (few plants produce significant edible materials in the

period December to March) so "acorns, hickory nuts, maize

and beans must have been stored in considerable quantity

against the winter needs" (1980a:226).

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