Mississippian period community organizations on the Georgia Coast

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Mississippian period community organizations on the Georgia Coast
Crook, Morgan Ray, 1951-
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vii, 290 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Clams ( jstor )
Coasts ( jstor )
Eggshells ( jstor )
Excavations ( jstor )
Middens ( jstor )
Oysters ( jstor )
Posts ( jstor )
Pottery ( jstor )
Savannas ( jstor )
Shell middens ( jstor )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Sapelo Island (Ga.) ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- Antiquities -- Georgia ( lcsh )
City of Gainesville ( local )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: leaves 279-289.
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Also available on World Wide Web
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General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Morgan Ray Crook, Jr.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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05267317 ( oclc )
AAJ9812 ( notis )


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Many individuals and several institutions were involved in the

making of this dissertation and the absence of any one of these

would have changed its form. The Kenan Field research presented in

the following pages is but a small part of a broader research objective

designed to record and assess the archaeological resources of Sapelo

Island,Georgia. Towards the fulfillment of this broad research

goal, I am pleased to acknowledge the support of Governor George

Busby and the State of Georgia, along with Commissioner Joe Tanner

and Dr. Elizabeth Lyons of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

I also gratefully acknowledge the National Science Foundation for

the Dissertation Improvement Grant (#77-07565) that funded the

zooarchaeological analysis for the Kenan Field Project.

Archaeological research on Sapelo Island has benefited greatly

by its association with C. V. Waters of the Georgia Game and Fish

Division and his wife Mary Lou. The assistance and courtesies

received from the Waters and their staff are accepted with gratitude

and are due repeated thanks.

Several individuals may be singled out in recognition of their

positive impact upon me through their roles as teachers, advisers,

and friends. I sincerely thank Lewis H. Larson, Jr., for his patience

and his continued interest in my growth as an archaeologist, for his

wise counsel, and for the many research opportunities which he

encouraged. Whatever achievement is expressed by this dissertation

is largely the effect of my association with Dr. Larson. I also owe

a large debt to the distinguished members of my Doctoral Committee.

I thank Dr. Fairbanks for his many excellent graduate courses and for

his open willingness to consider new points of view and to discuss

old problems. I consider myself privia d to have been taught by i'

him. I also thank Dr. Rice for her teaching ability, for he6n k

for providing criticism at the right moment, and for her alertness

Logical and stylistic flaws. My courses with Dr. Margolis provided

a firm base for my theoretical orientation and although she would

argue with particulars of my framework, it is nevertheless a result

of her influences. I appreciate Dr. Proctor for his interest in the

dissertation and for his propensity to focus upon those simple questions

which have such complex anthropological explanations. Finally in the

repetoire of prominent individuals, there is the position of Dr. Jerald

T. Milanich, the chairman of my Doctoral Committee. His impact upon

me and the course of this dissertation has been considerable. I deeply

thank him for some of the interest he was able to impart to me for

coastal archaeology, for his skepticism, and for his numerous


There are a host of other individuals whose efforts are appreciated

and who positively affected the research. The field work during the

summer of 1977 was completed with a crew composed of from ten to

fifteen high-school students and other residents of Sapelo Island.

Their efforts and attentiveness are acknowledged with graditude, as is

the able service of three field assistants. Ms. Patricia O'Grady

supervised the shell-midden sampling program and the in-field analysis

of the molluscs, Mr. Jeff Mitchem supervised much of the general

excavation, and Mr. Ken Johnson supervised the mechanical-transect

excavations. Their personal involvement in the success of the

project is to be credited.

The laboratory-analysis portion of the research fell into the

competent hands of five individuals. Ms. Mimi Saffer completed the

descriptive analysis of pottery, Ms. Pamela Stern analyzed the clam

shells, Ms. Erika Simons and Ms. Kathie Johnson completed the faunal

analysis under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Wing, and Mr. David

Hall was responsible for the floral analysis. The goals I set for

analysis often required the modification of standard analysis

procedures and the flexibility of the analysts towards the achievement

of these goals was admirable.

The influence of fellow graduate students in the formation of my

concepts in anthropology and archaeology, and towards the solution

of my personal research problems, cannot be over-estimated. I benefited

from numerous discussions with Ann Cordell, Nick Honerkamp, Bob Johnson,

Tim Kohler, Jill Loucks, Alan McMichael, Mimi Saffer, Robin Smith, and

Ray Willis.

Secretarial and administrative services are an important portion

of any research and I fortunately have been associated with some of

the best. I thank Ms. Mavis Riding and Ms. Linda Timmons at West

Georgia College along with Ms. Annette Fanus of the Florida State

Museum for their kind assistance. I also thank Ms. Nancy Steinen for

her patience in typing the dissertation.

Last, but not least, I would like to acknowledge my personal

appreciations. I thank a few close friends for remaining friends

while I was consumed with the dissertation. These include Ann Cordell,

Tom Eubanks, Nick Honerkamp, Steve Johnson, Leslie Lieberman, Jill

Loucks, Alan McMichael, Mimi Saffer, Dan Simpkins, Robin Smith, and

Pam Stern. A special place is reserved here for Patricia O'Grady, for

her love and support. Finally, I thank my mother and father for their

long support of me throughout my education and for their solid

parental confidence.



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

ABSTRACT . . . . . . .. .... . . .. vii

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION ..... . . . . . . 1
Concepts and Theory .... . . . .. . . . 1
Problems and Hypotheses .... . . . . . . 4

CHAPTER II: METHODS . . . . . ... . . 10
Mapping Procedures ...... . . . . .. . 10
Sampling Procedures . . . . ... . . .. 12
Faunal and Floral Analysis .. . . . . . 19
Pottery Analysis .... . . . . . . .... 20
Lithics and Other Artifacts .. . . ... . . .. 23

Environmental Summary .... . . . . . . 24
Coastal Georgia during the Sixteenth Century ...... 35
Archaeological Assessments . . . ...... .. . 71

Structure #1 .. ... ........ ........ ... .103
Structure 2 . . . . . . . . . . . 150
Structure #3 . . . .... ...... .... 173
Structure 5 . . . ..... .... . . . .. 176
Structure #4 ... . ..... . . ..... 137
Structure #6 . . . . . . . . . . . 203
Structure #7 . ... . . . . . . . 209
Mechanical Transect Test Excavations . . . .. .. .217
Shell Midden Tests .. . . . . ....... .. 225
Analysis of Clam and Oyster Shell . . . . ... ... .23A

CHAPTER V: CONCLUSIONS . . . .. . . . . . 255
Tests of the Hypotheses . ..... . . . . 255
Consideration of the Sixteenth-Century
Model and Cultural Change ... . . . ...... .265


BIBLIOGRAPHY ........... . . . . . . ... 279

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .. .. ........ . . . . .290

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



Morgan Ray Crook, Jr.

December, 1978

Chairman: Jerald T. Milanich
Major Department: Anthropology

This dissertation examines Mississippian Period cultural adapta-

tions in a coastal environment as indicated by certain social, spatial,

and temporal dimensions of community organization. Hypotheses con-

cerning basic elements of adaptation are posited and an annual model

of the aboriginal cultural system is constructed through an examination

of sixteenth-century accounts and data from modern ecological sources.

Preliminary investigations at the Kenan Field site on Sapelo Island,

Georgia, are discussed in detail and the archaeological data are

analyzed for evidence required to test the stated hypotheses and systems

model. Analysis focuses upon subsistence information, architectural

details, and the spatial distribution of material-culture elements.

Two primary conclusions are drawn from the research. The first

is that the Savannah Phase, a Mississippian Period manifestation on the

Georgia coast, was defined by a chiefdom-level cultural system that was

distinctively adapted to the coastal environment. The second basic

conclusion is that the Savannah Phase was followed by a period of

cultural change that appears to be associated with late sixteenth

century Spanish activities on the Georgia coast.



This is an archaeological study of cultural adaptations on the

Georgia coast during a latter portion of the Mississippian Period

(ca. A.D. 1000 1540). Primary data are from preliminary investi-

gations at the Kenan Field site on Sapelo Island, Georgia, and consist

of settlement and subsistence details along with other information

concerning material culture. Ethnohistoric accounts of the coastal

inhabitants during the sixteenth century and published archaeological

data provide additional evidence for analysis and interpretation.

Concepts and Theory

The study of settlement and subsistence from materials preserved

in the archaeological record has proven to be a productive research

orientation for the archaeologist. This mode of inquiry has its

roots firmly set in the regional analysis and cultural ecology of

Julian Steward (1938, 1955), with its archaeological application in

the Viru Valley of Peru (Willey 1953).

A general definition of settlement pattern is "the way in which

man disposed himself over the landscape on which he lived" (Willey

1953:101). As Willey later points out,

settlements are a more direct reflection of social and economic
activities than are most other aspects of material culture
available to the archaeologist. . [but] like most other facts,
those of settlement are robbed of much of their importance when
considered in isolation [Willey 1956:1].

Borrowing the ideas of social "microstructure" and "macrostructure"

(Chang 1968:7), Bruce Trigger refined settlement pattern categories

with the concepts of "microsettlement" and "macrosettlement" (Trigger

1968:54-55). Macrosettlement pattern analysis is the distributional

study of habitation areas over the environment, while microsettlement

analysis examines habitation components in relation to one another

within a community or focuses on details of*individual structures.

Macroanalysis is concerned with intersite relationships and nicro-

analysis with intrasite details.

Quantitative techniques, locational models, and ecological

theory have provided a major impetus for development in settlement

subsistence studies since the 1960's. It is very clear that the

application of advanced analytic techniques, or even the study of

settlement and subsistence pattern, is of limited value as a goal in

itself. Rather, techniques and theories offer a key to the under-

standing and explanation of cultural systems. Central to this under-

standing is the concept of adaptation. This concept is a fundamental

assumption in all ecological studies, including archaeological ones

dealing with extinct cultural systems through analysis of settlement

and subsistence data. Adaptation is, in very simple terms, the process

of successful adjustment to and articulation with the environment.

In the case of a cultural system, this success is demonstrated by

the continued existence, or survival, of the system.

Structural elements of the materialist-hierarchic model of

culture, explicitly used by Leslie White (e.g. 1969) and more implicitly

by Julian Steward (e.g. 1955:134-185), consist of ideology, social

and political organization, and technology. Technology provides a

base for the cultural pyramid and is the primary means of adaptation,

implemented through productive arrangements ordered by social and

political organization, and supported by ideological constructs.

The model is systemic and dynamic. It is dynamic in that

cultural change is affected by alterations in the structural com-

ponents, basically through thermodynamic increase as proposed by

Thite (1969:363-393) and by modification in technology and productive

arrangements as suggested by Steward (e.g. 1955:37). It is dynamic

also in the sense that the elements are functionally related and

interact with one another in the form of a cultural system. That

is, culture is an interrelated whole.

Structured within a materialist framework, cultural ecology seeks

to "explain the origin of particular cultural features and patterns

which characterize different areas" (Steward 1955:36). However,

the concept is "less concerned with the origin and diffusion of

technologies than with the fact they may be used differently and

entail different social arrangement in each environment"(Steward


Cultural ecology focuses on cultural adjustments to local

environment by discerning those cultural features "which empirical

analysis shows to be most closely involved in utilization of environ-

ment in culturally prescribed ways"(Steward 1955:37). Those features

of culture basic to environmental utilization, the "cultural core,"

are those "most closely related to subsistence activities and economic

arrangements." The core includes such social, political, and religious

patterns as are empirically determined to be closely connected with

these arrangements" (Steward 1955:37).

Perhaps the most important deficiency within the cultural

ecology method is that the role of dynamic interplay between culture

and environment is minimized. The method is constructed to discern

cultural features caused by adjustment to environmental factors. A

feedback concept is missing; the treatment of culture as an interacting

element within an ecosystem. Attention to feedback loops and

cybernetic theory has proven important in archaeological research (see

Plog 1975). However, the original formulation of cultural ecology

remains a valuable basic research tool, and is used here with an

awareness of the importance of system interactions within the environment.

Cultural ecology, with the added feedback dimension, is

employed in this study as a data organizing tool and as a heuristic

device. Essentially, the concept provides a general problem orientation

for research and analysis. Ethnohistoric and archaeological data are

analyzed for details of technology, subsistence activities, productive

arrangements, social and political organization, and ideology, with

reference to aspects of the local environment and material exchanges.

Problems and Hypotheses

The explication of prehistoric cultural adaptations along the

southeastern Atlantic coast has received the increasing attention of

archaeologists in recent years. This research is discussed in later

chapters. It is sufficient to note here that major gaps exist in

our knowledge. One such gap involves Mississippian Period adaptations

in the region. Although early ethnohistoric accounts indicate a

marked degree of social complexity, there is little understanding of

the range and function of the social components in terms of adjustment

to environmental factors and dealings with other cultural systems.

Initial investigations during the summer of 1976 at the Kenan

Field site on Sapelo Island suggested that more intensive, problem

oriented research would yield substantial information on the adaptations

of a late prehistoric coastal community. Kenan Field is located on an

extension of land that juts out briefly about midway along the western

side of Sapelo Island. The site is rather rectangular in shape,

corresponding to the form of the land upon which it is situated.

Salt marsh bounds Kenan on all but its eastern side. The Duplin

River approaches the northwest corner of the field, and a portion of

the south end is accessible through a small tidal creek (Figure 1).

The site area, defined by the shell midden distribution, measures

60 hectares and contains 589 discrete shell middens.

Research efforts during 1976 concentrated on mapping and limited

test excavation. Surface debris in the planted-pine stand that covers

Kenan Field had been destroyed by fire, exposing the shell deposits,

which were mapped. Pottery from the test excavations was predominately

cord-marked and check-stamped Savannah-Phase wares, and much less

frequently, Irene complicated-stamped pottery. Post holes marking

construction activity were exposed beneath the 25 cm. plow zone.

Since excavation was restricted to a small area, the only conclusions

supported at this point were that at least a portion of the site


dated to the Mississippian Period and that detectable structural

features were present.

The shell middens and other topographic features, including

two earthen mounds and a long earthen embankment, were mapped to

provide a model of the location and surface distribution of cultural

features at the site. The map (Figure 2) shows rather ambiguous

patterns of refuse deposition, probably because of sequential re-

arrangement of settlement components.

However, certain general patterns are evident. The map shows

intricate linear and aggregate arrangements of midden deposits

which suggest a complex village plan. At least four distinct areas

may be defined:

(1) a separate clustering of shell middens in the northeastern
portion of the site;
(2) linear arrangements in the central area;
(3) an arc-shaped pattern of large shell middens defining an area
to the west of Mound 'A';
(4) an area more or less void of midden refuse in the southern
portion of the site, south of the linear embankment and near
Mound 'B'.

These spatial data are impossible to interpret because cultural

associations are undemonstrated. Knowledge of the cultural pro-

venience of the shell middens and the relationship between midden

location and structural components are specifically required. Once

these data are established, structural location should be predictable

from refuse location. The hypothesis is that refuse was deposited

by definable social units within the village, and that this de-

position was in reference to structures that housed these units.

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Formally, the purpose of this dissertation is to test by advanced

field methods the following hypotheses and their implications:

Hypothesis 'A': The Mississippian Period community at the Kenan
Field site was characterized by a formal village plan which
reflects the adaptations of a ranked society to environmental
factors and relations with other cultural systems.

Testable Implications:
1. The spatial arrangement of structural remains is patterned.
2. Socially and/or functionally distinct structures are associated
with particular areas of the village, and may show repeated
construction in the same area.
3. Socially and/or functionally distinct structures are
discernible in:
a. Structural details;
b. Associated subsistence refuse;
c. Associated material culture.
4. Adaptations to the natural environment reflected by the
village plan are discernible in:
a. Form and distribution of structural remains;
b. Communal food-storage facilities.
5. Adaptations to the social environment reflected by the
village plan are discernible in:
a. Defensive fortifications;
b. Exotic materials.

Hypothesis 'B': Social organization of the Mississippian Period
community at Kenan Field was an adaptation for procurement of
strategic resources.

Testable Implications:
1. Social organization is discernible in:
a. The village plan;
b. Structural form and function;
c. Distribution of contemporary and discrete material culture
d. Redistributive activities.
2. Productive arrangements are discernible in:
a. Subsistence technology;
b. Form of social units engaged in subsistence activities;
c. Settlement location in relation to strategic resources;
d. Seasonal and spatial occurrence of strategic subsistence


Mapping Procedures

The map of Kenan Field provides a surface-distribution model that

is the basis for sampling and ultimately the basis for conclusions

drawn from these data. The procedures used in mapping determine the

accuracy of this base model and the amount of confidence that can be

placed in it. Thus, the mapping technique is discussed in some detail.

Kenan Field was mapped using controlled transit-stadia transects.

A base line of stations was set at 50 m. intervals along the western

side of the site, between two permanent bench marks. Corridors, 50 m.

to 75 m. wide, were defined extending east and west from these stations,

from the western marsh edge to High Point Road.

The transit was positioned within a corridor in reference to the

associated station. The rod-man then walked from one side of the

corridor to the other in a north to south and south to north fashion,

using the 2.5 m. space between the rows of planted pine trees as a guide.

Within each corridor, every other tree row was walked and the interven-

ing space was inspected. The location of shell middens was recorded

with the transit, and shell-midden size and form were estimated.

Dimensions of small middens were visually estimated and larger middens

were paced. Shell midden center-point elevations, immediate surrounding

surface elevations, and other surface elevations at approximately 15 m.

intervals were recorded from a metric stadia rod. The mounds and other

earthworks were surveyed at smaller surface intervals, generally from

1 m. to 3 n. apart.

Survey thus proceeded down a corridor, the northern extent of

reconnaissance being marked with flagging and the transit being

moved at about 150 m. intervals. When the eastern end of a corridor

was reached, the next to the north was surveyed back towards the western

base line. The formerly flagged line now marked the southern extent

of the new corridor and the northern side was flagged for future

reference. Instrument position was re-established at the western

end of the corridor in reference to the base-line station, and

the accumulated transit error averaged over the number of set-up

points used in the pair of corridors. Transit readings were then

plotted on metric graph paper at a scale of 1:2000.

Crucial to the survey was the definition of shell middens. Shell

middens were defined by noticeable concentrations of shell debris

usually accompanied by a slight rise above the surrounding surface.

Kenan Field was used for agriculture beginning perhaps earlier than

1800, and continued to be cultivated at intervals until 1951 when

the pines were planted. This agricultural activity dispersed the

shell deposits and makes definition of the smaller middens difficult.

However the results of the map are accurate and replicable, as

individual shell middens were re-located during the summer of 1977

using a transit and following the declinations and distances presented

on the map. The only inaccuracies noted were the erroneous definition

of two small shell middens and a single large shell midden. These

were originally defined more by slight increases in surface elevation

than bv noticeable shell concentrations.

Sampling Procedures

The shell middens encountered at Kenan Field were divided into

five classes based on size differences (Figure 3). The three larger

diameter classes (A,B,C) were defined by natural breaks in frequency

distribution and the smaller two (D,E) by a marked decrease in

frequency. Measurement of those few middens which are elongated

rather than annular were converted to averaged diameters for class-

ification purposes.

The two classes of shell middens with the largest diameters were

used to define sampling strata and substrata. The two earthen

mounds were included within the largest diameter class for strata

definition purposes.

Strata were formed by constructing Theissen polygons (see Kopec

1963, Haggett 1965:247-248) with the shell middens as referents.

Each polygon defines that area which is closer to the designating

shell midden than to any other midden of the same or larger class.

Polygons were initially constructed with equal weight being placed

on both Class A and Class B middens. This defined the sample sub-

strata. Eleven strata were then defined by drawing polygons in

reference to only Class A middens. The boundaries of these strata

were then adjusted to accommodate the substrata within each polygon

(Figure 4).

One of the polygon strata, Stratum F, was chosen for sampling.

Stratum F confines an area of 51,033 square meters, contains 91

shell middens, and is divided into six substrata. Selection of this

stratum for testing was non-random. It was chosen because of its

Class A Class 3 3lass C Class I 2las I



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central position within the site, and because it encloses variable

areas of shell midden arrangements, from the arch-shaped pattern west

of mound A to the linear arrangement area in the central part of the


Initially, a random sample of each substratum within Stratum

F was planned. Because of several unpredicted factors that will be

discussed later, only three were investigated.

Each of these substrata was tested with a randomly selected

transect. Sample transects were aligned between 110 and 150 east

of north, determined by the arrangement of the planted-pine rows at

the site. It is assumed that placement is unbiased in reference to

the prehistoric component. The plow zone along the 1.9 m. transect

lines was removed by a tractor with a rear-mounted dozer blade, and

the transect surface was leveled by hand with shovels. All observed

features were then mapped with an alidade, and artifacts were recovered

and their provenience recorded.

The sole purpose of the sample transects was to expose structural

locations. More extensive and formal excavation was required for

definition of structural form and cultural associations. Far more

structures were located by the transects that could be exposed by

extensive excavation during the 14-week field period during the

summer of 1977. Selection of structures to be more completely

defined was non-random. It was decided that each structure within a

transect required definition and that second level random sampling

was inappropriate. Excavation was expanded in those transect areas

which contained the most structural activity. The sample is probably

biased at this point towards the archaeologically more complex


Structural areas were excavated in 2 m. x 2 m. and in 1 m.

x 4 m. units. Each unit was excavated in levels to the base of the

plow zone. The first excavation level extended 15 cm. beneath the

surface and defined a zone of maximum agricultural disturbance. This

zone in approximately every other excavation unit was screened through

1/4 in. or 1/4 in. x 3/4 in. mesh. Depth of the second excavation

level was more variable but never extended more than 30 cm. beneath the

surface. This level defined a less disturbed portion of the plow

zone and cultural material from each excavation unit was recovered

by screening, usually with 1/4 in. mesh hand screens. Excavation

was terminated in most areas at the base of the plow zone and features

which were intrusive into the underlying subsoil were mapped with

an alidade or in reference to established grid stations.

Two structural areas were investigated outside of the sample

design. Excavations were extended in the 1976 test area in an

attempt to define that structure, and excavations were initiated

in an area just west of mound A after a trial transect was cut

that exposed structural elements.

In addition to structural area excavations, random samples were

taken of each shell midden class within a substratum. The purpose

of this was to secure a quantifiable sample of subsistence remains

and determine the cultural association of the shell middens. A 25%

sample of each shell midden class within each substratum was randomly

selected for testing. The actual sample fraction varies due to the

number of shell middens per class per substratum. For example, by

definition each substratum contains only one Class A or Class B shell

midden. Thus, 100% of this class per substratum was tested.

Each selected shell midden was tested by placing a 1.5 m. x 2 m.

test pit within the deposit. This test pit was divided into four

unequal, horizontal sections (see Figure 5). Section A was excavated

in 15 cm. levels to the base of the midden and the matrix was screened

through 1/4 in. mesh. Excavation then continued until sterile subsoil

was reached. Cultural material from each level was retained and the

shell material was identified and weighed in the field.

Profiles of the eastern wall of each test pit were recorded,

and Sections B, C, and D were excavated by natural stratigraphic levels.

A total sample of approximately 1 liter from each level was recovered

in Section C. These samples are reserved for future analysis. Sections

B and D were independently screened through 1/4 in. mesh and processed

the same as Section A. In addition, midden that passed through the

screen was collected and processed by screening with 1/16 in. mesh in

water to remove the soil matrix. Recovered material was then spread

on plastic sheets to dry. This material was manually sorted in the

field and the faunal remains were separated from the shell debris and

artifacts. The debris was retained and samples were later processed

by chemical flotation (ZnC 2) to recover plant and animal remains that

were overlooked in the field.

The field methods used at Kenan Field were designed to provide

data for testing the stated hypotheses. Execution of these methods


| Section A __

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required more field time than was originally predicted. The main

reason for this was the unanticipated number and large size of

structures that were encountered.

A significant amount of data was gathered, but execution of the

sampling design is incomplete. For this reason the final statistical

treatment and their conclusions must await additional field work.

The study presented here is preliminary in this respect; however,

enough information is available at this point for partial resolution

of the hypotheses.

Faunal and Floral Analyses

Fauna from the Kenan Field excavations were identified using the

comparative collections of the Zooarchaeology Laboratory, Florida State

Museum. Skeletal elements recovered from each provenience unit were

identified to the lowest reliable taxon and elements of each taxon were

weighed. Minimum number of individuals were determined for species

identified from shell-midden test pits and undisturbed features. Faunal

material recovered from general excavations in the structural areas was

fragmented due to agricultural disturbance and required a different

format for the presentation of analysis results. This faunal material

was summarized by the relative skeletonal-weight contribution of each

identified species within specific contexts.

Floral remains encountered at Kenan Field were identified to the

lowest reliable taxon using the comparative collections and references

of the Herbarium at the University of Florida.

Pottery Analysis

Pottery recovered from the Kenan Field excavations was analyzed

to provide evidence of both diachronic and synchronic variability.

Analysis focused on identification of surface treatment and design

elements, tempering components, and rim forms. Tempering, as used

here, refers to aplastic inclusions with the pottery paste.

Classification of tempering material conforms to categories

used in previous type descriptions of Southeastern pottery (see March

1934, Southeastern Archaeological Conference 1938). It should be noted

that although these aplastic categories are widely used and are

apparently reliable, their simple definitions have remained implicit.

Sand tempering is self-explanatory and refers to fine grains of sand,

sherd or grog tempering denotes crushed fragments of potsherds included

within the paste, and grit tempering refers to coarse granules of sand.

Sherd tempering is a nominal category, while the sand and grit categories

are ordinal. Analysis in the present study considers the presence and

relative proportions of tempering materials within each potsherd, and

thus is basically an ordinal quantification. A sample of the analysis

forms used for the pottery analysis is shown in Figure 6 and a flow

chart of the analysis procedure is presented in Figure 7.

The screening techniques employed in the field recovered many

very small sherds. These sherds were usually impossible to identify

with any confidence and they were considered to contain little infor-

mation beyond that presented in the larger sherds. Therefore, a

sampling system was devised to remove small sherds from detailed

analysis. Separation by size was accomplished by placing pottery

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from each provenience unit in a Clorox bottle neck with an inside

diameter of 21 mm. Those sherds passing through the bottle neck were

counted and weighed, and small rim sherds were removed for additional

analysis. Those sherds larger than 21 mm. remained within the analysis


These larger sherds from each provenience were divided into groups

with common tempering and surface treatment. The number of sherds

within each group was recorded and notes were made of other traits

such as shell-smoothed interiors and hone marks. All rims and a large

sample collection were set aside for additional analysis and typology.

Typologies were based on published type descriptions and comparative

collections in the Florida State Museum, University of Florida Depart-

ment of Anthropology, and the West Georgia College Archaeological


Lithics and Other Artifacts

Stone material was rare at Kenan Field. Those lithic artifacts

which were encountered were identified by material and form, and when

possible by function. Another rare category was pottery artifacts,

i.e. re-utilized potsherds, consisting of a few sherd hones and one

possible spindle whorl. Neither bone nor shell artifacts were re-


Spanish ceramics were infrequent and were not temporally distinc-

tive. These consisted of three body fragments of olive jar that could

have been manufactured as early as 1500 until later than 1800

(see Goggin 1960).


Environmental Summary

Aspects of the Georgia coast have captured the attention of

scientists from several disciplines for many years. A great amount

of published work reporting coastal research is scattered through

the journals of each speciality. A useful summary of some of this

research recently has been published (Johnson et al. 1974) and a study

of the coastal environment from an anthropological point of view has

been presented by Lewis Larson (1970). These two major works are

used rather freely in the following summary description.

The coastal environment has been altered since the late pre-

historic period by agricultural and industrial activities. Thousands

of acres of delta-swamp forest around the mouths of freshwater rivers

were cut during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These

areas were dyked and became productive rice fields. Highland forest

areas were also cut and the land planted during the plantation era,

and low wet lands were drained to provide even more agricultural

land. Clearing and draining continued well into the twentieth century.

Even today some low mainland areas are being drained to provide pulp-

wood acreage (e.g. Gray 1933, Bonner 1964).

These changes in the landscape must have displaced and in many

cases destroyed large segments of the biotic community. Certainly,

repercussions were felt throughout the coastal environment. The late



perhistoric environment can, nevertheless, be approximated with modern

ecological data. This information must be used critically and

assessed with a knowledge of historic alterations. For example, vege-

tation and animal communities documented within a drained slough of

a barrier island are of limited value as a base for prehistoric

exploitation inferences.

Climate along the Georgia coast is rather moderate with warm to

hot summers and cool winters. Annual rainfall averages around 50

inches and temperature averages just below 70 F. There are about

300 freeze-free days a year in the Brunswick area of the middle

Georgia coast. Temperatures exceeding 900 F. begin to occur in May

and continue into September while freezing temperatures usually begin

during the last part of November and end during March. Precipitation

is from frontal activities during the late fall and winter, and thunder-

showers during the spring and summer. These thundershowers are fre-

quently localized and may inundate small areas while leaving nearby

locales completely dry. Normally about half of the annual rainfall

occurs between June and September, but tropical storms often account

for heavy rains in August and September. Table 1 shows monthly

rainfall and temperature readings for Sapelo Island during 1960,

1965, and 1970, along with average statistics from Brunswick.

The Georgia coast defines the eastern edge of the Southern

Temperate Deciduous Forest Biome (Shelford 1963:56-88). This biome

contains three major communities or faciations: the oak-hickory

forest which extends from around the Fall Line into the Piedmont and

upper Coastal Plain; pine lands or barrens which extend from the

northern edge of the Coastal Plain to within several miles of the


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coast: and the magnolia and maritime forest which defines an irregular

strip containing the coastal islands and adjacent mainland.

Progressively younger geological deposits form the Coastal Plain

from the Piedmont to che Atlantic Ocean. The Fall Line represents a

late Mesozoic shore line. Relatively thin Cretaceous sediments occur

at the edge of the Fall Line and as sea level dropped, younger and

thicker surface deposits were formed approaching the present coast

line. The youngest, Holocene, formation occurs along the ocean sides

of the barrier islands.

Most of the coastal area is the result of Pleistocene formations.

As one crosses the coastal plain towards the Atlantic, relic coastal

features such as beach ridges, islands, hammocks and former marshes

may be observed. The most obvious are within several miles of the

Atlantic, just east of the Miocene Coastal Plain formation. Although

deposits thicken towards the present coast, surface elevation gently

drops from around 100 meters above sea level in the upper Coastal Plain.

Rivers that empty into the Atlantic along the Georgia coast have

their headwaters in three physiographic provinces. The Savannah

River originates in the Blue Ridge, the Altamaha in the Piedmont through

the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers, and the other rivers are Coastal Plain

in origin (see Figure8 ). These river systems provided the most

practical link between the coast and inland areas during the aboriginal

period. It has been argued (Larson 1970:73-117) that the pine barrens

had a low exploitation potential given late prehistoric subsistence

technology. The pine barrens was also an effective cultural barrier,

although permeable through the Altamaha and Savannah Rivers.



0 5C 100


GrCEirGI .iRiiNcA G iZ i I _.M eAsE Ma P

The Georgia coast is defined by plant and animal communities that

are distinctive from the adjoining pine barrens. Topography of the

coast is also distinctive. The western edge of the coastal section

is delineated by the marsh system that accompanied the Wicomico barrier

island formations. Eastward of this Pleistocene geological formation

are remanent features of later beach ridges, barrier islands, hammocks,

and marshes that extend parallel to the present coast line. Today

these mainland Pleistocene features form a system of highland hammocks

surrounded by freshwater swamp. The most recent Pleistocene formation,

Silver Bluff, defines the active system of barrier islands and salt

marsh that separates the mainland from the open ocean. Tidewater

actions are most pervasive in the most recent formations; however,

the tides also cause fluctuating water levels in the freshwater

rivers beyond the impact of salinity. Because of the influence of

tides throughout the coastal section, hereafter this area is referred

to as the Tidewater Biome. In summary, the Tidewater Biome includes

the present barrier islands and extends to the western edge of the

Wicomico formation (see Hoyt and Hails 1967, Hoyt 1968).

The Tidewater Biome may be divided into three environmental areas

based on biotic and abiotic differences. These areas Larson (1970)

defined as the Strand Section, the Marsh and Lagoon Section, and the

Delta Section.

While use of these environmental divisions is maintained in this

review, exception is taken to the previous areal definitions of the

Marsh and Laeoon Section. The western extent of this section has

been defined by the impact of salinity and the pine barrens are

shown bordering this salinity zone (see Larson 1970:8). The Tidewater

Biome extends a considerable distance to the west of this former

boundary, to an irregular line reaching approximately 75 kilometers

inland. Pine barrens begin to occur at this inland point. The present

areal definition of the Tidewater Biome and the pine barrens agrees

well with the observations of William Bartram in 1773 (Harper 1958:19).

The Strand Section faces the open Atlantic and is composed of

the beach with its.dunes, shore and offshore areas. Most of the plant

and animal resources of aboriginal importance in the strand occur

more regularly and abundantly elsewhere on the coast. The exceptions

are sea turtle, which is a seasonal visitor that nests on the beaches,

and coquina, a small bivalve that occurs in some abundance along the

shore. The strand may have been visited to harvest sea turtles, their

eggs, or coquina, but there is little evidence of aboriginal occupation

in the area. Only two sites have been reported on the southern Atlantic

coastal strand. One is located on Cumberland Island (Milanich, personal

communication) and the other is in Brunswick County, North Carolina

(South 1976:10). The strand appears to have been of limited, if

seasonal, economic importance during aboriginal times.

The Marsh and Lagoon Section is separated from the ocean by the

strand, and is composed of high ground, marshes, tidal streams and

lagoons. This section is the largest, the most physiographically

diverse, and contains the greatest number of species in the Tidewater

Biome. Archaeological sites occur most frequently on the high-

ground areas within this section.

The barrier islands, hammocks, and mainland high-ground areas

are examples of what Shelford (1963:67-73) identified as Magnolia

Forest, although Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana Miller) was probably

the climax, or near-climax, dominant (e.g. Johnson ec al. 1974:

44-55, Wharton 1977:185-188). The climax questions aside, this forest

community includes live oak, laurel oak, water oak, pignut hickory,

red cedar, southern magnolia, red bay, American holly, and cabbage

palm as major overstory species. Understory species include wax

myrtle, saw palmetto, and yaupon along with many herbs and vines.

Floral species of the marsh are less diverse and are frequently

monospecific. Vegetation occurs in zones dependent on salinity and

inundation factors. The most extensive of these salt marshes are

composed of smooth cordgrass, needlerush, and giant cutgrass. Those

areas along the landward edge of the marsh which are flooded for only

a short time each day contain grasswort, saltgrass, sea oxeye, and

sea lavender.

Although salt-marsh plants had no direct value as an aboriginal

subsistence resource, the marsh was essential in the food chain of

species which were of economic importance. The three primary producers

in the salt marsh are smooth cordgrass, mud algae, and phytoplankton.

Tidal flow brings essential nutrients into the marshes and carries

enriched nutrients and detritus back into the estuary. The energy

stored in the producers flows through the ecosystem through a grazer

food chain and a detritus food chain. Only about 5% of marsh pro-

duction is consumed in the grazer food chain. The remainder is

available to detritus and suspended-algae consumers. Primary detritus

and algae consumers include species such as fiddler crabs and molluscs.

Most, if not all, of the estuarine fish species either feed on marsh

detritus and suspensions, eat species that are detritus consumers,

or both.

That portion of the salt marsh which is next to high ground

provides an important feeding habitat for raccoons seeking high-marsh

crabs and the eggs of diamondback terrapins. The high-marsh plant

cover evidently also supplies an important food source for marsh

rabbits. Both the low aquatic marsh and the high marsh are feeding

grounds for marsh mink, which search for fish, mussels, crabs, and

eggs. Fish in the low marsh and estuaries are taken by otters. Both

otter and marsh mink use the high ground adjacent to the marsh as a

nesting area. Various wading birds such as white ibis and little blue

heron also feed in the salt marshes.

Mammals inhabiting the high-ground areas in the oak forest include

white-tailed deer, opossum, raccoon, cottontail rabbit, and bobcat.

The white-tailed deer population presently on the coast is genetically

diverse, due to the introduction of deer from various areas of the east

in game management activities. Aboriginal coastal deer may well have

been a smaller subspecies (Odocoileus virginianus nigribaris Goldman

and Kellog) which has been identified on Blackbeard and Sapelo

Islands (Golley 1962:204). The average weight of the Blackbeard deer

is around 60 pounds (Lund et al. 1962 in Johnson et al. 1974:59). This

weight is about 40 pounds less than the average weight of other

Georgia deer. A metric study of archaeological specimens could

establish whether or not this subspecies was prevalent on the coast

during prehistoric times.

A fourth and rather distinct environmental zone occurs within the

Marsh and Lagoon Section. This zone is defined by low areas of

freshwater swamp that are beyond tidal influence. The water supply

of this swamp is predominately rain water. Freshwater swamp occurs

in relic marshes along the mainland in areas which are away from the

river deltas. A similar phenomena exists within the low interiors or

sloughs of the barrier islands. Little is known about the ecology

of these freshwater swamps. Vegetation appears similar to that of the

upper reaches of the freshwater river, with cypress, tupelo, and ash

as possible dominates. The barrier island slough systems are slightly

brackish, especially where they empty into the salt marsh. Wading

birds form nesting colonies in the sloughs during the spring and,

lacking predatory fish, sloughs also provide important breeding

grounds for reptiles and amphibians. Food for the reptiles is

provided by the nesting birds.

One aspect of the mainland freshwater swamps that certainly

affected aboriginal occupation was that they effectively dispersed

highland areas and their resources. Highland oak forest occurs in

patches throughout the swamp and movement between these forest areas

was to some degree impeded by the swamp lands. Since the swamps appear

to have been of limited exploitive value, the forest resources

which were of aboriginal importance occurred in dispersed sections.

Larson (1970:292-297) has pointed out that the dispersed condition of

highlands combined with limited pockets of relatively fertile soil

restricted the size and distribution of Indian agricultural plots.

Lacking natural soil renewal systems, like alluvial deposition, even

the more fertile soils are rapidly exhausted in the high-ground areas.

Based on ethnohistoric evidence, the late aboriginal inhabitants of

the coast responded to these fertility restrictions with a shifting

agricultural regime. Maize, beans, and squash were cultivated in

these swidden plots by small social units scattered over the coastal

area. Aboriginal agricultural on the coast is discussed further in the

ethnohistoric section of this chapter.

The final environmental section in the Tidewater Biome is the

delta area. The Delta Section is defined by the course of freshwater

rivers. These rivers become increasingly deltaicand brackish as they

approach saltwater. The Delta Section is low and frequently inundated,

especially during spring floods. Vegetation in the delta is water

tolerant, grading towards increasing salt tolerance as the deltas

approach the salt marsh. Although subject to the tides, deltas are

composed primarily of fresh water. Much of the area consists of fresh

to slightly brackish swamps containing cypress and gum as dominates,

with increased vegetation in the higher areas (Wharton 1977:60-62).

As with the freshwater swamps, very little is known about the ecology

of delta swamps. Brackish species, such as fiddler crab, inhabit some

delta-swamp areas. Deer, otter, and raccoons also occur in portions of

the swamp; however, it appears that each of these mammals is far more

abundant and accessible in the Marsh and Lagoon Section.

Anadromous fish are the most distinctive inhabitants of the delta

rivers, and were probably the resources of aboriginal importance.

Species such as American shad, glut herring, striped bass, and sturgeon

enter the rivers during the spring to spawn. While the abundance of

anadromous fish would have made aboriginal exploitation profitable for

short periods of time, there is little in the Delta Section to sustain

a more permanent population.

In summary, the tidal dreams and oak forest are the richest biotic

environments on the coast. As Larson (1970:33) concludes,

The Lagoon and Marsh Section with its diversity of ecology, with
its variety and abundance of resources, was potentially and actually
an area of considerable aboriginal importance. The Coastal Sector
populations resided almost exclusively within this section, and
concentrated almost entirely upon its resources.

Coastal Georgia during the Sixteenth Century

Guale Ethnohistory

That portion of La Florida now known as the Georgia Coast was

occupied by two aboriginal linguistic groups during the sixteenth

and seventeenth centuries. The Timucua occupied the area from

around Cumberland Island and the Satilla River in Georgia south into

northeast Florida. A group known to the French as Ouade, the Spanish

as Guale, and the English as Wallie extended north from the Timucuan

area to around St. Catherines Island. Guale was actually the name

of a single town and its chief on St. Catherines Island. The name

was also used by the Spanish to refer to the entire area from

the Timucua to St. Catherines.

There is little ethnohistoric information about the area be-

tween St. Catherines Island and the Savannah River. This portion

of the coast perhaps encompassed the northern limits of Guale and

the southern limits of Cusabo. While the northern and southern

extent of the groups called Cusabo are unclear, the area from the

Savannah River north along the South Carolina coast to around

Charleston inlet seems to have been almost exclusively the land of

Cusabo (Swanton 1922:16-17, 1946:128).

The distinction between Guale and Cusabo was at least partially

due to Spanish divisions of the coast into administrative areas.

There may have been some cultural differences as well, but at least

the Cusabo just north of the Savannah River and the more southern

Guale were far more similar than they were different. The main

distinction may have been a degree of political integration. While

there is evidence chat the entire Guale province was under some form

of control of a single head-chief, no such arrangement is indicated

among the Cusabo. However, it appears that the head-chieftainship

was a rather ephemeral office. The position may have developed as

a result of Spanish definition of the province and a requirement for

a single aboriginal representative.

The Guale and Cusabo spoke a common Muskogean language. When the

French under Jean Ribault visited the Guale in 1562, a Cusabo guide

had no difficulty communicating with the Guale. In addition, a

grammar composed by Spanish missionaries among the Guale was evidently

used by missionaries among the Cusabo. The most convincing evidence

of a common language is a statement by Governor Pedro Menendez Marques

in 1580 that the Indians of Santa Elena, i.e. the southern Cusabo,

were of the same linguistic province as the Guale. There are several

linguistic traits which indicate with little doubt that the Guale

were Muskogean speakers (see Swanton 1922:18 passim).

Timucuan has been classified recently as a "Language Isolate"

that was distinct from Muskogean (Crawford 1975:65-66). Timucuan

was divergent from Muskogean to the degree that priests who spoke

Timucuan found it necessary to employ interpreters when communicating

with the Guale (Swanton 1922:15).

Most of the subsequent discussion is focused on available infor-

mation concerning the Spanish-defined Guale. This information is

directly applicable to at least the southern-most Cusabo. Likewise,

I have occasion to employ accounts from the southern Cusabo for

additional information about the Guale.

Ethnohistoric information pertaining to the Guale is limited,

however certain basic structural elements of this coastal culture may

be defined. The Guale were swidden agriculturalists with settlements

organized into towns; they had a well-developed political structure

composed of micos and several other offices; and their kinship net-

works probably had a matrilineal structure and post-marital residence

was probably matrilocal Many details of this general structure

were shared by other Muskogean groups in the southeast, although

the Guale were distinctive in several respects.

The Guale resided in towns, each with a mico as political head

and representative. Groups of towns were united with allegiance to

a mico in one of the towns. There seem to have been three such

regional town groups and three regional micos. When Governor

Pedro de Ibarra visited the Guale in November of 1604, he met in

council with the micos and other officials from each region at or

near St. Simons Island, Sapelo Island and St. Catherines Island

(Swanton 1922:81,89). The location of these meetings may be used

approximately to divide the Guale area into northern, middle and

southern town regions. Additional evidence for these regional

town groups is that following the 1597 massacre of Franciscan

missionaries, the mico of Asao is spoken of as the head of the southern

group of Guale towns. There was also a head mico for the entire

Guale province. This individual is said to have exacted tribute and

was feasted upon his visits to various towns in the province

(Swanton 1922:84).

There is some evidence that indicates succession to the town-mico

office was structured within a defined kingroup. Don Juanillo of

St. Catherines Island is spoken of in 1597 as the "eldest son and

heir of the cacique of the island of Guale" (Barcia 1951:181). Given

matrilineal kinship organization, this individual was probably the

eldest nephew of the Guale mico and this relationship was expressed

by a father-son terminology. It'is unclear whether the offices of

regional and provincial mico were ascribed or achieved. Don Juanillo

is also referred to as the one, "whose turn it was to be head mico

of that province [Guale]" (Swanton 1922:34). Distinctions between

the use of the terms cacique and mico are ambiguous. Actual dif-

ferences between offices ray be implied, however Spanish use of the

terms is inconsistent.

Guale political structure was composed of several officials other

than the mico. The Spanish called these individuals mandadors,

aliaguitas, and other principal Indians (Serrano y Sans 1912 in

Larson 1978:124). These officers were certainly an integral part of

the Guale town councils. The councils that met with Governor Ibarra

probably contained the political nexus of each Guale town that was


Guale political structure appears similar to that of inland

Muskogean groups. Micos were also the leaders of Creek towns. The

role of the Creek nico is well illustrated by Speck (1907:113) as,

to receive all embassies from other tribes, to direct the
decisions of the town council according to his judgment, and
finally to stand as a representative of the town in foreign

The Creek council contained various officials and advisors of the mico,

including most frequently a heniha with peace functions and a tastanagi

with war'functions (Swanton 1928:276-334).

The Guale micos had some control over the goods of production. A

Guale mico called Oade gave Ribault's men food supplies in 1562. "This

good Indian was ready to do the favor as they were to ask it, and he

commanded his subjects to fill our boat with corn and beans"

(Laudonniere 1975:43). A short time later the French returned to

Oade for additional supplies. Oade sent word to Covecxis, another

Guale mico and referred to as his brother, requesting corn and beans

for the French. The next morning supplies arrived from Covecxis

(Laudonniere 1975:45).

Guale councils met in large council houses which were functionally

equivalent to Creek square grounds. There are only a few accounts

of these structures for the Guale, however each town probably had a

council house. These building were circular in shape and were usually

quite large. Individual apartments or cabins raised above the floor

lined the walls along the inside of the building, and in the center

of the structure was an open space for a fire and activities.

Two accounts of council houses are given in San Miguel's record

bf his 1595 visit among the southern Guale. At the town of Asao,

San Miguel witnessed a chunky game which was followed by a black

drink ceremony in the council house. "The Spaniards, caciques and

important Indians sat down, each on a bed which was supported by

poles from the floor" (Garcia 1902 in Larson 1978:129). San Miguel

(Garcia 1902 in Larson 1979:131) describes another Guale council house

as being,

circular in shape, made of entire pines from which the limbs and
bark had been removed, set up with their lower ends in the earth
and the tops all brought together above like a pavillion or like
the ribs of a parasol. Three hundred men might be able to live
in one: it had within around the entire circumference a con-
tinuous bed or bed stead, each well fitted for the repose and
sleep of many men, and because there was no bed-clothing other
than some straw, the door of the cabin was so small that it was
necessary to bend in order to enter: and due to the cold although
it was spring when we arrived; and so that one may not feel the
cold at night and may sweat without clothing it is sufficient
to cover the doorway at night with a door made of palmetto.

The best descriptions of a Guale council house are given by

Jonathan Dickinson in 1699, more than 100 years after San Miguel.

The Guale had become dispersed by this time and their middle Georgia

coast territory was mostly abandoned. Some groups had moved to mission

villages closer to St. Augustine and others had fled to their

Carolinean neighbors and the English (see Swanton 1922:90-92). The

description given by Dickinson applies to those Guale who had moved

to mission villages along the south Georgia and northeast Florida

coast. Just north of St. Augustine he visited the town of Santa

Cruz, which contained a large council house. Dickinson and his


were directed to the Indian war-house: it is built round having
sixteen squares; on each square is a cabin built and painted which
will hold two people; the house being about fifty foot diameter.
In the middle of the top is a square opening about fifteen foot.
This house was very clean, and fires being ready made nigh our
cabins [Andrews and Andrews 1945:87-88].

A little later the Quaker party visited a town called St. Mary's

where they were

conducted to the war house, as the custom is, for every town hath
a war-house. Or as we understood these houses were for their
[the Indians] times of mirth and dancing, and to lodge and
entertain strangers. This house is about 81 foot diameter
built round, with 32 squares, in each square a cabin about 8
foot long of good height being painted and well matted. The

center of this building is a quadrangle of 20 foot being open at
the top of the house, against which the house is built thus. In
this quadrangle is the place they dance having a great fire in
the middle. One of the squares of this building is the gateway
or passage in [Andrews and Andrews 1945:89].

These accounts indicate Guale council houses were remarkably

similar to Creek Tcokofas, also called round houses, rotundas,

sweat houses, or hot houses. Tcokofas were part of the Creek

ceremonial structure complex which also included a square ground,

defined by three or four opposing rectangular sheds, and a ball

ground. Tcokofas were winter council houses and the square ground

construction served this purpose during the summers. Guale council

houses may have combined the functions of the Creek Tcokofa and

square ground. At least some Guale towns also contained ball grounds,

as evidenced by the San Miguel account. The similarity between

Guale council houses and Creek Tcokofas is apparent in the descrip-

tion of a Tukabachee round house.

The main structure is supported upon twelve [emphasis in original]
pillars, one end sunk in the ground. They are disposed in a circle
about 9 or 10 ft. apart, making a space within of about 120 ft.
circumference, in the centre of which, upon the ground, is the
sacred fire. The roof over this circle is a cone terminating
in a point over the fire some 20 odd feet high. The rafters extend
down from the apex of the cone beyond the twelve pillars, which
are about 8 ft. high, to within 4 or 5 ft. of the ground, which
space, of 4 or 5 ft., is closed entirely with earth. Between
the pillars and the extreme exterior, a space of several feet,
are seats of mats, like those of the sheds [in the square
ground] [Hitchcock Ms. notes in Swanton 1928:179-180].

There is much less ethnohistoric evidence concerning domestic

structures and storage facilities in the Guale area. All that is

said of domestic structures is that, "all of the houses are small,

because, as they have little reason to keep in them, they make them

only for shelter" (Garcia 1902 in Larson 1978:131). Domestic

structures shown in the De Bry engravings that relate to the

general Timucua area are all small and round, and are possibly

applicable to the Guale (see Lorant 1946:39-115). Father Or6 notes

that granaries were common throughout La Florida and that "in them

the Indians place the maize they keep for their sustenance; it is

a type of barn supported by four posts, high and bulky, raised from

the earth"(Ore 1936:24). It is not mentioned whether these store-

houses were domestic or communal. It assumed that both types

existed. Considering Guale political organization, the mico's

granary was also probably the community storehouse.

Some Guale towns were palisaded but once again there is little

information on this point. A town called Yfusinique, in the northern

portion of the Guale province, was stockaded and provided a defensible

location for the perpetrators of the 1597 Guale revolt (Swanton 1922:

88). Palisaded towns were certainly common elsewhere along the coast,

as shown in the De Bry engravings of the Virginia area and northeast

Florida towns (Lorant 1946).

Much more conclusive evidence is needed about Cuale social organ-

ization, but it appears that kinship and post-marital residence

followed a Creek pattern. Polygamy was an aboriginal condition

that the priests were determined to abolish. The Guale were equally

resolved to maintain their marriage form. When confronted with

the Christian demand, the Indians replied: "If I leave her, I will

not have anyone to give me to eat and if I do not enter the house

where my children are, and if I do not bring them food and wood, they

will perish" (Ore 1936:101). This statement strongly indicates that

a house was the property of the wife. When a man had more than one

wife, he alternated his residence between the houses and provided

each household with food and services. Thus post-marital residence

appears to have been matrilocal. Since children lived in the house

and locality of the mother, and assuming that the place of social

orientation and pre-marital residence were the same, then a matri-

lineal kinship organization is certainly suggested.

Marriage to a mico may have resulted in modification of the

matrilocal residence rule. The relations of a mico are cited by

the priests to illustrate their missionizing difficulties, and they

urged the mico to set a "good" example for his people. Referring to

the "principal cacique" or head mico of the Guale province, Father Ore

(1936:101-102) states that,

During the time of his [the head mice's] apostacy he took into
his house as a concubine and mistress one of his sisters-in-law,
the sister of his own wife, with whom he lived all that time. By
her he had three children, and by his own wife four children ..
The fathers said the reformation of morals should start with him.
All they accomplished with him was that he put her in a separate
house, which was an ancient custom of the chiefs who placed in
a separate house each one of the women or lovers they had. Even
then the Indians complained: "Until now the cacique had in one
house two women and children; now he has two houses and in each
house he has a woman as if he were a pagan." The Indians
urged him to marry her. Neither did he nor she wish, nor did
anyone dare to marry her, for it was a custom that no one should
marry or speak to the wives or the lovers of the caciques.

These statements indicate that upon marriage the wives of a mico

were imported to his locality. The mico, his wives, and children

evidently resided in the area of his consanguineous kin group, his

matrilineage. Sororal polygyny is indicated as the marital form

in this case, but this may not have been the exclusive form. It

may well be that when wives were sisters, they resided in the same

house and when from different matrilineages, they lived in separate

houses (cf. Larson 1978:126).

These inferences have important implications for the Guale

social and settlement system. Marriage to a mico probably provided

a mechanism for social mobility in a ranked society. Upon marriage

the woman moved from her matrilineage to the locality of the mico

and there began a descent group spatially separate from that of

her own orientation, though still connected through consanguineous

ties. The children of the mico would have been members of their

mother's descent group rather than that of the mico, but they pro-

bably held a degree of prestige higher than that associated with

their matrilineage alone through their relationship with the mico.

The wife's matrilineage may have accrued additional prestige through

affinal ties with the mico and his lineage. Social taboos sur-

rounding the wives would have served to solidify the position of

the wife and her offspring in the residential area of the mico.

The taboos also would have made the rank of this new matrilineage

segment more secure.

Guale lineages were probably arranged into clans or sibs, although

there is no direct evidence to support this claim. There is a vague

reference to the Timucua that may apply to the Indians of La Florida

in general. Father Ore (1936:107) states that the Indians "consider

themselves related, provided they have the same names or lineages

even if there is a difference of a hundred degrees."

Analogy with Creek social organization may be used to supplement

our information about Guale social organization. Descent group member-

ship for the Creek was reckoned through the female line. Given a male

ego, members of his descent group included his mother, mother's brothers,

mother's sisters and their children, mother's mother and her sisters

and their children, ego's sisters and thier children, and ego's

brothers. Each domicile was owned by the wife. The household was

principally composed of a husband, wife, and their unmarried children.

Older sons and daughters whose spouses had died, plus the offspring

of the widow, and occasionally an orphan and war captives were in-

cluded in the household. The nucleus of the domestic unit was the

nuclear family. Households of the same matrilineage commonly re-

sided in the same area of a town, the husbands being imported from

other descent groups and the sons leaving upon marriage to reside

with their wives and their lineages (see Swanton 1928:79-97, 170-171).

Different matrilineages were united through mythical ancestry

to form exogamous sibs. It should be noted that the term "clan" is

used by Swanton (1928:114) to refer to these matrilineal groups which

acknowledge common descent. However according to Murdock (1949:41-78),

they properly define sibs. Sibs are distinguished from clans in

the Creek case because husbands retain their own lineage and sib


Analogy with the Creek pattern becomes less secure past this point.

Creek sibs were organized into phratries which were in turn divided

into moieties. Creek towns were designated either Red or White

depending upon their moiety affiliation and ball games were played

between towns of opposing colors. San Miguel's account of a

Guale chunky game indicates that the teams were from different towns,

possibly suggesting town moieties, but this is the only hint we have

of a dual division of Guale towns.

Certainly, the Guale political structure indicates an inte-

gration beyond the individual town level. The dynamics of this are

unclear,'but some Guale towns were surely allied through kinship

ties. The account previously cited from Laudonniere refers to Oade

and Covecxis as brothers. A literal interpretation is unwarranted,

but kinship between the two micos is definitely suggested. The

micos were probably either members of the same lineage or sib and

shared reciprocal responsibilities through this relationship.

A Systems Model of the Sixteenth Century Guale

What we know of Guale social and political organization is made

more intelligible with an examination of the resource base which

supported the cultural system. It is possible to construct an annual

model of Guale social, subsistence, and settlement systems based

on a small amount of ethnohistoric evidence and a heavy reliance

upon modern ecological data. A graphic presentation of the systems

model is provided in Figure 9 for reference in the following

discussion. Essentially the model provides a testable hypothesis

for archaeological investigation. Since it is predominately

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 followed the 1597

Guale revolt.

The Guale planted corn, beans, and squash. Agricultural fields

were small and scattered throughout the highland areas of the coast.

Within the highland areas fertile soils occur in small pockets,


presumably limiting the size of fields within an already restricted

area. The sandy coastal soil is marginally fertile at best, re-

quiring fallow periods between plantings for renewal (see Larson

1970:292-297). Discussing agriculture of the Guale around St.

Catherines Island in 1570, Father Sedeno states that,

the few Indians that are there are so scattered: because as they
do not have that with which to clear the trees for their fields
they go where they find a small amount of land without forest
in order to plant their maize: and as the land is so miserable
they move with their households [sus ranchos] from time to time
to seek other lands that they can bring to productivity
[Zubillaga 1946 in Larson 1970:295-296].

As Larson points out, the "small amount of land without forest"

probably refers to fallowing fields.

Accounts from the area immediately north of Guale also serve

to illustrate the scattered nature of the Indian fields and in

addition supply information about the social units involved in cult-

ivating the swidden plots. Father Juan Rogel, a Jesuit missionary

among the Orista, states that settlements are dispersed because,

the land will not support it nucleatedd settlement], because
it is very quickly weakened and miserable and exhausted. And
thus the same ones say that because of this they move around
so spread out and shift so regularly [Zubillaga 1946 in Larson

If my analogy with Creek social organization is correct, it appears

that the swidden plots were cultivated by related households of a

matrilineage, most usually two nuclear families. Again from Orista,

Father Rogel says that in the early spring,

those members of those twenty households [casas] distributed
themselves on twelve or thirteen farms [estancias] that were
some twenty leagues, some ten, some six, some four from
one another: and there were only two inhabitants that planted
[maize] around there [around the mission] [Zubillaga 19L6 in
Larson 1970:294].

Crops from the swidden fields were harvested in mid-summer.

Father Rogel indicates that planting occurred in the early spring,

probably just after the period of freezing temperatures which continue

into March. Harvest occurred in late June or early July. This harvest

was accompanied by a feast through which the scattered swidden families

were brought together in a single location. Produce from the scattered

fields supplied the feast. The town larder, the mico's granary, was

probably replenished at this time, grain from the preceding year being

now depleted. Support of these inferences is found in a statement by

Father Rogel that,

it happened that the alferez, Juan de la Vandera, deputy governor
of your grace in Santa Elena, was at a Escamacu feast [in late
June or early July 1570] and forced by necessity ordered three or
four caciques, there were Escamacu and Orista and Ahoya, that
they bring him certain [numbers of] canoes of maize by a certain
day to Santa Elena [Zubillaga 1946 in Larson 1970:195].

Guale populations were nucleated and sedentary for a time following

the harvest. The next subsistence phase indicated in the ethnohistoric

accounts involved a population dispersal to gather acorns. Father Rogel

arrived at Orista in 1569 during the harvest period. He says that,

this was the time that they were together, which was two and one-
half months; and the acorn harvest arrived, all left me alone, and
they were in these forests, each one in his area [cada uno por su
cabo], and they do not assemble except for certain feasts that they
hold twice in two months,and it is not always in one area [cabo]
but one time here and another in another place [Zubillaga 1946
in Larson 1970:281].

It would appear from this statement that the Guale resided in

towns from the first part of July until the middle of September.

The dates given by Rogel and his statement about gathering acorns

agree with contemporary information about oak trees and their fruit.

Acorns, as well as hickorynuts, begin to fall from their trees in

late August and continue until early December. Acorns, especially

those from white oaks, germinate soon after dispersal, requiring

immediate collection to retard spoilage (Olson 1974:695,698.)

Oaks'within the Tidewater Biome usually occur in stands

covering several acres. Precise data about the size and composition

of these stands are lacking; however, groves of 20 large live oaks

(Quercus virginiana Mill) are common and much larger stands exist.

On Sapelo Island during December of 1977, the ground beneath live

oaks was covered with acorns. This was perhaps the result of a good

year for acorn production, associated with the preceding unusually

cold winter on the coast. An estimated bushel of acorns was spread

beneath each large live oak.

Considering these estimates, the yield per season from a single

large live oak would be 120 pounds of acorns containing 50 pounds of

meat. The stand of 20 trees would produce about 1000 pounds of

acorn meat per season (see Olson 1974:Table 3). Divided over a

15-week acorn dispersal period, the stand would yield on the average

of 65 pounds of acorn meat every week. This converts to 180,000

calories per week, capable of supporting about 13 individuals for

7 days, considering a per capital per day intake of 2000 calories.

Presumably more than one oak grove would have been visited per

week, increasing the size of the group that could have been sustained

by the acorn harvest. The caloric value of acorns is a low estimate

of 600 calories per 100 grams, based on pecans, hickorynuts, and

walnuts (Watt and Merril 1963:44,34,65).

The point of this acorn assessment is to demonstrate that the

food energy available from the acorn harvest was substantial, and

capable of supporting larger groups in one area than the one or two

nuclear families that were involved in the swidden cultivation.

Of course the acorn harvest was accompanied by other subsistence

activities, the most important being deer hunting. White-tailed

deer are also drawn to oak groves during the fall to feed on the

acorn crop (see Larson 1970:247). Deer hunting and acorn gathering

were complementary subsistence activities. Deer feed in the early

morning and late afternoon, and are far less active during the

remainder of the day. Acorn gathering could have taken place through-

out the daylight hours. The acorn season is also the only period

of the year when deer regularly occur in groups, making a communal

hunt possible.

The social organization and procurement model for the fall sub-

sistence phase suggested by the ethnohistoric and ecological data

is one of population dispersal from large towns sometime in September,

primarily to gather acorns and hunt white-tailed deer. The seasonally

abundant resources connected with oak groves were capable of supporting

several families in a single location. Acorns were locally abundant,

but perished soon after they fell to the ground. This type of

resource is most effectively harvested by many persons over a short

period of time.

Oak stands are scattered over the sections of highland along the

coast. The oak groves defined within a highland section may have

been revisited after new acorns had dropped, perhaps by the same

group in a cyclical pattern. Following a Creek social organization

pattern, the subsistence group probably defined a single matrilineage

with four or five nuclear families forming the social core. The

entire matrilineage may have been employed in communal deer hunts

using a surround or similar technique, or the older males in the

group may have ambushed the deer at their feeding grounds. The deer

hunt would have occurred in the twilight hours, and either technique

would have been productive.

Father Rogel also says that the acorn gathering groups came

together twice in two months at different locations for feasts.

This suggests a settlement component defined by towns composed of

temporary and changing populations, as opposed to the seasonally

stable population of the summer towns. The sites of summer towns

and the periodic towns may have been the same. A mico, his wives

and children, and members of his lineage were probably permanent

occupants of the town site, and exploited nearby oak groves during

the acorn season.

Town sites would have served as storage areas for surplus

produce acquired during the acorn season, possibly in the form of

tribute to the mico. The feasts would have been an occasion to settle

disputes, debate political matters, and an opportunity to develop

social relations with individuals outside of the matrilineage.

The produce brought in for the feast probably included not only

white-oak acorns and venison for immediate consumption, but also

less perishable commodities. Acorns from red-oak species (e.g.

Quercus laurifolia Michaux, Q. shumardii Buckley) and hickorynuts

(e.g. Carva tomentosa Nutall, C. glabra Sweet) could have been

successfully stored until the spring (see Olson 1974:699; Bonner

and Maisenhelder 1974:271). Dried venison and deer skins were

other storable items. Red-oak acorns require processing to leach

out bitter tannin before they are edible (see Larson 1970:269,

281-282). Since they may be stored, the leaching process could

have been completed after the acorn season was over.

A semi-permanent settlement pattern is suggested for these

lineage subsistence groups. Settlements were probably located in

relation to acorn resources. Since dispersement of oak groves is

restricted to circumscribed highland areas, the resources of several

oak stands could have been exploited from a single settlement

location. When these resource areas were exploited beyond the point

of supporting the lineage, the settlement would have shifted to

another location.

The next subsistence phase in the model relies heavily upon

ecological inference. Subsistence is hypothesized to have shifted to

a reliance on estuarine fish and shellfish following the acorn season

and continuing until the March agricultural activities. White

tailed deer probably continued to be exploited, but by the individual

hunter through stalking because deer were now much more solitary.

It is also likely that some stored nuts were processed and eaten

during this period. A matrilineage form of social grouping probably

remained the basic settlement and subsistence unit; however, settlements

were now dispersed within a more restricted environmental area.

Settlement probably shifted from scattered locations over the highland

oak-grove areas to those highland areas adjacent to tidal streams

which permitted access to the estuarine system.

The seasonal abundance of five families common in the tidal

streams of the Georgia coast, and which are also commonly represented

in the archaeological record, is presented in Figure 10. The fishery

.'.. 3- ..a =|g
: / -- 1
I -X -"
/ -

V c

- -I "
K \\ i ,.
C. 2

4-- .z
^ i I >i >

^t"~~ ^ -.v^
S" ^ ^ G a

data are from trawl catches in tidal streams from around the

Satilla River up to the Savannah River. The information was col-

lected over a three-year period, from October 1970 until September

1973 (Mahood et al. 1974b). Only those streams large enough to

admit a trawl vessel, measuring approximately 0S feet in length,

were sampled in this way. Furthermore, since trawling was restricted

to the deeper portions of the streams, those peripheral areas along

the banks are not represented. However as trawl sampling was in-

tensive and the sample size was quite large, the results are con-

sidered to be a reasonable indication of the seasonal variation of

fishes in the tidal streams.

Species within certain families of fish were becoming more abundant

in the tidal streams between January and March of the hypothesized

subsistence phase. A large portion of the increased abundance of

Sciaenidae is due to the occurrence of spot (Leiostomus xanthurus

Lacepede) in tidal streams near Sapelo Island. Several other

Sciaenidae are also present, including spotted sea trout (Cynoscion

nebulus Cuvier), Atlantic croaker (Micropogon undulatus Linnaeus),

and star drum (Stellifer lanceolatus Holbrook) (see Mahood et. al

197'b:31-32). Sciaenidae as a family actually occurs year-round

on the Georgia coast, but are most common during two seasonal periods,

from January through March and from June through August. The seasonal

abundance of Sciaenidae also varies depending upon their location on

the coast. For example, during the winter months Sciaenidae are

more common in the warmer waters of the south of Sapelo Island

than in the cooler estuarine waters of the middle and northern

Georgia coast (see Mahood et al. 197Lb:Table 4).

Sciaenidae occurring near Sapelo Island during the winter are

represented by small to medium-sized species. Spot reach a weight of

around 340 gm. and a length of about 40 cm. Star drum are also small,

reaching a length of about 25 cm. and weighing perhaps 900 gm.

Atlantic croaker are quite stocky, weighing as much as 2.3 kg. and

attaining a length of 45 cm. Sea trout are a larger species, reaching

a length of 65 cm. and a weight of 3.2 kg. (Mahood et. al 1974b:

32-33, Breder 1948:192-195).

Members of the Clupeidae family frequently occur within the

tidal streams of the Georgia coast from January through March.

Schooling species of Clupeidae which are present in tidal streams

near Sapelo Island during this period consist of blueback herring

(Alosa aestivalis Mitchill), menhaden (Brevoortia sp.). Atlantic

herring (Clupea harengus harengus Linnaeus), and gizzard shad

(Dorosoma cepedianum LeSueur). However, only the Atlantic herring

is found in the Sapelo Island tidal streams exclusively during this

winter period, and as with Sciaenidae; the Clupeidae family is more

abundant in the southern coastal waters during the winter (Mahood et

al. 197Lb:23-24).

Shads and herrings of this family are anadromous. They inhabit

the tidal streams during the winter, prior to spawning in freshwater

rivers during the spring. Thus, the winter occupants are mostly

mature individuals. The species represented around Sapelo Island

are composed of small mature individuals, ranging in length from

20 cm. to 45 cm. and perhaps weighing between 250 gm. and 900 gm.

(Mahood et al. 1974b:23-21).

Sturgeons (Acipenser sp.) are a large anadromous fish and are

available in the tidal streams only during the winter and early

spring months. The winter sturgeon population consists of mature

individuals, as they spawn in freshwater rivers during the spring.

Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser ozyrhynchus Mitchell) range from

around 30 cm. to 90 cm. in length and mature individuals perhaps

weigh around 6 kg., although individuals reaching a length of more

than 5 m. have been recorded (Mahood et al. 1974b:23, Breder 1948:


The American oyster (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin), and other

marine molluscs were probably exploited during the winter period.

Subtidal oysters are rare in the coastal estuaries. The Georgia

coastal oysters are intertidal and form beds on the firmer parts of

the tidal stream banks. These oysters spawn throughout the warmer

months of the year, continuing well into the fall. During the spawning

period, oysters are in poor condition and are diseased. A parasitic

fungus, Labyrinthomyxa sp., infects the intertidal oysters at a

high rate from June through December. The oysters are predominately

free from infection between January and May (Hoese ?1968).

Factors associated with this disease are poorly understood, but

the oysters appear most susceptible during the warmer months when

they are in poor condition. The fat and carbohydrate components

of oysters are lowest during the spawning period and markedly

higher from October to around April. Protein is highest during

August, but also increases from December to February (Lee and Pepper

1956). Present inhabitants of the Georgia coast refer to oysters of

the warmer months as being "thin and milky," and they are seldom


The most productive time, in terms of energy return, to harvest

intertidal oysters is during the winter and early spring months.

There is a 33% reduction in the meat weight of heavily diseased

oysters, diminishing the energy return from this species during the

warmer months (see Ray et al. 1953). Even undiseased oysters yield

lower meat weight in response to their summer spawning condition.

Referring to commercial oysters of the North Carolina coast and the

south in general, Chestnut (1951:159) states that,

Oysters may develop their sex products to spawn in [as late as]
the fall months, with the consequence that they are in poor
condition immediately after spawning, and yield a low volume
in meat content. A month or longer may be required to recover
from spawning. ..

While the late aboriginal occupants of the coast may have occasionally

gathered oysters during other periods, this was probably due to

subsistence stress or failures in other subsistence activities.

The common link between the winter resources is that most occur

as groups within the tidal streams. Sturgeon are probably the excep-

tion. The shad, herring and Sciaenidae tend to move in schools or at

least groups, and oysters occur in discrete beds. Thus, these winter

resources occur in clusters that are dispersed within the tidal

streams and are spatially analogous to the fall acorn and white-tailed

deer resources. The difference is that the winter species, with the

exception of oysters, are more mobile. However in aboriginal times,

as today, there were probably certain favored fishing places and to

this extent the location of fish in the tidal streams was predictable.

The same section of tidal stream could have been repeatedly fished.

Owing to this, settlements were presumably much more stable during

the winter months.

Social-group composition for the winter subsistence activities

was probably the matrilineage as in the fall. Since subsistence

resources occurred in clusters within the tidal streams, these could

have been most effectively exploited by several individuals at one


The particular technology employed was perhaps influenced by

factors beyond those imposed by the nature of the resources. Water

temperatures during the winter range around 100 C. (500 F.) to 150 C.

(59 F.) (Mahood et al 1974b:Figure 12). Air temperature during the

winter months is frequently around or below freezing. These uncomfort-

able temperatures certainly restricted procurement to a technique

that minimized water contact. All the fish species discussed above

could have been caught with hook and line; however, more than one

fishing technique may have been employed. Bottom-feeding species of

Sciaenidae may have been captured with basket traps, and cast nets

may have been used to catch members of the Clupeidae family. Sturgeon

were most probably procured exclusively with hook and line, as these

individuals are too large to effectively catch with cast nets or

basket traps. Procurement of oysters would have been little trouble,

as they are easily harvested at low tide by dislodging them from

their bed with a stick.

The winter procurement season was followed by spring planting,

thus closing the annual subsistence cycle. The March planting period

has already been discussed in respect to swidden activities and the

social dispersion that it entailed. The matrilineage social group

temporarily fissioned into nuclear family groups. The primary

settlement and subsistence unit was now composed of one or two

nuclear families.

The period defined by the growth of crops was certainly a time

of subsistence stress on the coast. With few exceptions, potential

resources were neither abundant nor clustered within the tidewater

environment. For example in May of 1565 while among the Timucua,

Laudonniere speaks of a famine time when there is little to eat

except a few acorns, certainly from red oak, and fish (Laudonniere


Food supplies stored in the granaries of Guale towns probably

postponed the shortage for a short time. A few festive occasions

may have served to redistribute this stored food. For example

early in the spring in April 1566, Pedro Menendez returned two

slaves captured by the Guale (St. Catherines) to Orista. This,

along with the Governor's visit, was cause for festivities. On

this occasion, "many Indian women [came],carrying maize, fish

boiled and roasted, oysters and many acorns.. ." (Meras 1964:175).

The maize and acorns were certainly stored foods from the preceding

year. The oysters were probably fresh, but were surely the last

of the season. The fish may have been anadromous, taken from fresh-

water spawning runs.

Several anadromous species occur on the Georgia coast. Shads,

herrings and sturgeons enter the freshwater rivers to spawn and are

available in quantities for a short period of time. The period of

migration varies somewhat with the species, but spawning is generally

a spring activity. Blueback herring (A. aestivalis Mitchill)

ascends the rivers in the spring, hickory shad (A. mediocris Mitchill)

in the late winter and spring, American shad (A. sapidissima Wilson)

from January to March, and the Atlantic sturgeon (A. oxvrhvnchus

Mitchill) during the spring and summer (Dahlberg 1975:37, Larson 1970:

177). Juvenile American shad and blueback herring have been caught

as far inland as the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers, over 200 km. from

salt water (Smith 1968). This probably indicates that some mature

individuals spawn well upstream during the spring.

The temporary abundance of anadromous species was certainly

noticed by the aboriginal occupants in a period which was otherwise

defined by scarcity. These fish may have been exploited by groups

of families during the spring after the fields were planted. This

subsistence trek possibly carried the Guale families well upstream,

beyond the Tidewater Biome.

The period following the late June harvest, as I have discussed,

was accompanied by a population aggregation in the towns. This large,

seasonally sedentary settlement continued until the fall acorn harvest.

Although the cultivated foods were certainly important during this

time, there was probably a renewed interest in estuarine resources.

This period corresponds with the second seasonal abundance peak in

the tidal stream species. The Sciaendae family and sea catfish are

prominent summer inhabitants.

Many species of Scianenidae are abundant in the tidal streams

near Sapelo Island during the summer months. Most notably these

species include red drnu (Sciaenops ocellata Linnaeus), black drum

(Pogonias cromis Linnaeus), Atlantic croaker (Microgogon undulatus

Linneaus), and star drum (Stellifer lanceolatus Holbrook). Atlantic

croaker and star drum were discussed as a winter resource, but are

more common in the tidal streams during the summer. The red and black

drums can be very large fish. Black drum reach a weight of about

34 kg. and a length of around 1.5 m. However the maximum length

reported in trawl catches on the Georgia coast is about 50 cm;, sug-

gesting a more usual weight of about 10 kg. Red drum are generally a

larger species, reaching a length of 1.1 m. and a weight of 66 kg.

(Mahood et. al. 1974b:31-33, Breder 1948:194-197).

Two species of saltwater catfish are abundant in the tidal

streams during the summer. Sea catfish (Arius felis Linnaeus) are

most common. This species reaches a length of about 45 cm. and a

weight of about 500 gm. is usual. Gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus

Mitchill) are less common but slightly larger, reaching a length of

55 cm. and weighing as much as 1.8 kg. (Mahood et al. 1974b:25,

Zinmand Shoemaker 1955:63).

Procurement technology at this time perhaps shifted to tech-

niques that employed larger numbers of people. A wide range or

fishing techniques could have been used in the tidal streams during

the warm summer months, including hook and line, basket traps, and

any of several netting techniques. Larson (1970:184-191) has argued

against the use of weirs along the Georgia coast. The basis for his

argument centers around the exceptionally high tides and unstable

bottom conditions in this area. These conditions would have made

constructions unstable and the weirs would have required continual


This hypothesis about the use of weirs on the Georgia coast is

carefully thought out and cannot be reproached based on present in-

formation. The hypothesis is, however, in dire need of testing with

data from experimental archaeology. At this point an alternative

hypothesis may be proposed for testing. While conditions that appear

prohibitive to permanent weir constructions exist along the beach, the

mouths of rivers, and in most other estuarine areas, small tidal traps

could have been constructed at certain locations within the estuary.

Only those areas immediately adjacent to large intertidal oyster

beds have a stable substrata. Weirs may have been constructed in

these areas, as they appear to lack the factors that mitigate against

construction in other tidal waters.

Whether weirs or some other subsistence technology was employed,

the oyster beds were probably at least one focal point for aboriginal

subsistence activities, as several species apparently feed here at

high tide. The most important to the aboriginals may have been the

Sciaenids (see Dahlberg 1972:351). Catfish and other species are

probably attracted to oyster beds by the presence of many associated

small invertebrates. Wells (1961) recorded an average of 43 species

associated with oyster beds in North Carolina. Durant (?1968).

recovered from 11 to 21 species from intertidal oyster beds along

the Georgia coast. Most of these recorded species are small organisms

such as annelids and boring sponges, and predators such as conch and

oyster drills. These species, along with oysters, provide a concentrated

food source for fish that is available when the oyster bed is covered

by the tide. Oyster beds have never been sampled in a way to provide

firm information on this point, but it is entirely logical that the

beds provide a localized feeding habitat for many fishes at high tide.

It should be stressed that the subsistence stages presented

in the above model deal with what are considered to be the primary

resources available within a given season, those which supplied

concentrated sources of exploitable energy. Resources other than

those discussed were certainly exploited and were certainly important,

such as wild grapes in the fall and several types of berries during

the spring and early summer. Deer would have provided an important

food source throughout the year, along with smaller mammals like

raccoons and rabbits. With a few important exceptions, it is the

abundance rather than the presence of particular resources that

varies with the season.

In summary, it is hypothesized that the Guale annual cycle

was composed of four distinct settlement and subsistence systems.

Each seasonal subsistence activity was executed by particular social

units. The form of each social group was a response to the nature

of the resources and the technology used for exploitation.

Although the model portrays the seasonal activities as static,

in reality, the seasonal boundaries were certainly more flexible.

Seasonal divisions would have shifted somewhat due to yearly fluc-

tuations in resources. For example, the acorn harvest is variable

from year to year and from grove to grove (Larson 1970:280). Poor

harvest years would have prolonged the summer subsistence period and

caused the winter subsistence phase to begin somewhat earlier. Some

overlap exists between the seasonal resources.

Four basic levels of settlement are indicated in the model.

The smallest settlement was composed of one or two nuclear families

during the agricultural season in the spring. This family settlement

pattern was quite dispersed throughout the coastal area. The second

type of settlement unit was composed of a matrilineage comprised

of 20 to 25 individuals. This lineage settlement had dispersed

locations during the acorn harvest in the fall. Settlement location

became more concentrated during the winter near the estuary.

It is likely that town sites were permanently occupied by a mico,

his wives and children, and perhaps his lineage. These residents would

have exploited areas adjacent to the settlement throughout the year.

The town sites were probably located in an area which could support

a small sedentary population. This location would have been in an

area which maximized access to productive resource zones. That is,

town sites were in a location which provided direct access to productive

estuarine areas, oak forest, and agricultural land. These settlements

were the location of periodic feasts held during the fall, spring

and probably winter subsistence seasons. During these feasts the

population level at the town site increased sharply for short

periods of time.

Town sites were also the centers for population aggregation

during the summer months and contained a relatively large and

sedentary population. The regional micos and provincial mico

resided in certain towns. These towns probably formed the apex of

the settlement structure and contained the largest summer population.

The political and social structure suggested by the ethnohistoric

accounts and the model indicate that Guale socio-political organization

was a form of chiefdom. A segmented and ranked system is clear,

although the exact form and components remain to be adequately

demonstrated. It would seem safe at this point to assume that the

micos and their lineages formed the apex of the socio-political

hierarchy. Micos were certainly at the top of the power structure,

but the mode of status and power acquisition is unclear. At least

the position of town mico appears to have been ascribed rather than

achieved, as the ehtnohistoric information suggests a line of suc-

cession to this office. Further, since another account indicates

some micos were related, it is probable that micos came from certain

lineages or sibs. In sum, aside from all the ambiguities that exist,

the Guale social system was segmented and these segments were ranked.

The function of the chiefdom organization may be understood in

terms of the annual model. Like the model, the interpretation should

be considered tentative and subject to verification and revision.

But even if certain details of the model prove to be inaccurate, the

basic nature of the interpretation should be valid if the general

form of the model is correct.

The Guale chiefdom may be understood in terms of information

processing and to a lesser extent the redistribution of goods.

Elman Service (1962:143) has pointed out that one characteristic

of a chiefdom is "the presence of centers which coordinate economic,

social and religious activities." Guale towns or town sites

functioned in this respect during the various subsistence phases.

The seasonal nature of the resource base, along with the dispersed

distribution of seasonal subsistence items, required an organization

and scheduling mechanism for the maintenance of the cultural system.

The construction and execution of this mechanism lay beyond the

capacity of individual subsistence groups.

The variant information held by each subsistence group was

channeled into town sites during periodic feasts that were held

during the fall, winter and spring subsistence phases. This in-

formation was processed, probably by councils, at the feast times

and decisions were made about future subsistence activities. The

office of mico probably functioned to voice and legitimize this


The chiefdom was essentially a socio-political mechanism

by which diverse information was acquired, processed, and then re-

distributed as a summary decision. Knowledge held by individual

groups about resources that were abundant in certain areas and

scarce in others was funneled into single locations. A coordinated

dispersal of the subsistence groups into mutually exclusive resource

areas followed decisions based on these data.

The chiefdom organization would have been perhaps most im-

portant towards the end of a subsistence season, when timing decisions

had to be made about subsistence and settlement shifts. Information

available to each group about decline of continued abundance of

current food resources and about the availability of new resources

was processed and a determination made about the appropriate course

of action.

Chiefdoms and their potential for information processing is

well illustrated in a recent discussion by Peebles and Kus (1977).

The Guale case supports their arguments. Speaking of hierarchical

social segments they point out that,

information is filtered at the lower levels and passed on to
the higher level regulator in summary form. The higher level

regulator can then deal with a variety of events that cannot
be simultaneously handled by the lower level units. For cultural
systems, hierarchical arrangements not only increase the system's
ability to process energy and information, but facilitate greater
internal complexity and external variability [Peebles and Kus

The authors emphasize the importance of ritual in this information

transfer and decision process and argue that redistribution and

ecological specialization should be abandoned as requisites for


Earlier assessments of ranked social organization stressed the

importance of ecological differentiation and the redistributive

function of the chief. For example, Service (1962:143-148) emphasized

ecological differentiation and sedentariness as major factors in the

development of chiefdoms. Goods from distinctive environmental zones

were channeled to the chief and were then redistributed so that

diverse food sources moved to the people rather than the contrary.

Overall production was increased, creating a surplus which supported

the chief and perhaps craft specialists. The surplus could be drawn

upon by the population during the times of scarcity.

This surplus and redistributive argument has been made of followed

by others (e.g. Fried 1967, Adams 1975), and remains a useful

base for archaeological explanation although it is usually difficult

to detect in the preserved elements of material culture. It seems

fairly obvious that both information processing and redistribution

are important functions of a chiefdom. The importance of one or

the other probably increases depending upon the particular environ-

mental context and subsistence technology. In areas with marked

zonation of contemporaneous subsistence resources, the redistributive

function becomes most important. The function of information

processing becomes more crucial to the maintenance of the system

in environments containing seasonally homogeneous but spatially

dispersed food resources. Redistribution actually remains a

primary characteristic in either case. What changes is the material

reallocated: goods in the former and information in the latter

case. Any particular chiefdom is likely to include both aspects.

Redistribution of stored foods was an important, though secondary

function of the Georgia coast chiefdoms. The creation of seasonal

surpluses, housed in the mico's granary, provided some support for

the population during the period of spring scarcity. The town

granary was replenished following the swidden harvest period. This

summer larder probably supported community activities such as council

meetings, public building construction and repair, large ceremonial

and festive events, and the entertainment of foreign and neighboring

dignitaries. Warfare might also be included, but the densely pop-

ulated towns would have been at their defensive peak and more vulnerable

during other seasons of the year when the resident population was

much smaller.

The nature and diversity of information processed by the system

would have changed dramatically during the summer months. Ecological

information was more homogeneous since the population was nucleated

and exploited a more restricted estuarine environment. Attention

at this tine may have been focused more on inter-town relationships;

their maintenance, termination, or realignment.

An excursion into the impact of western contact and mission

activities on this complex cultural system would require a separate

treatise., Certain elements of the system were surely 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 acculturation

attempts by the early missionaries. The earliest Jesuit efforts ended

in failure and the Franciscans were temporarily thwarted until after

the Guale revolt of 1597. An example of the cultural disruption that

accompanied slightly later mission activities is provided in an

account by Father Ore that describes Spanish retaliation immediately

following the 1597 revolt.

Since all the Indians were hidden in the woods, the governor
could neither punish them nor get in touch with them. They
burned the foodstuffs of the Indians: the Indians themselves
already burned their houses when they left. On this account
and due to what followed, during the subsequent years they had
no maize harvest. Moreover since they were removed from the
sea, they could neither fish nor gather shellfish, with the
result that they suffered great hunger. Though the Indians
sowed, it was little, while the Spaniards destroyed it every
year [Ore 1936:95].

Two of the main areas to be changed by the missionaries were

aspects of social organization and subsistence. The priests were

committed to the elimination of Guale polygyny and in the process

destroyed social networks which the marital form maintained.

Missionaries also required a sedentary population to whom they could

adminster Christian doctrines. The Guale finally became sedentary

and agricultural, although population size decreased. According to

my interpretation of the Guale Chiefdom, this settlement and subsistence

change would have destroyed the primary function of the aboriginal

socio-political organization.

Archaeological Assessments

The Mississippian Period is a temporal segment of Southeastern

prehistory which begins roughly around 700 A.D. with developments

at the Cahokia site and continues until the middle of the sixteenth

century. The De Soto expedition of 1539 is used to mark the end

of this period, as the disruptions and diseases which followed De

Soto did much to alter aboriginal culture in most of the Southeast

(e.g. Griffin 1967:189-191, Larson 1970:2, Willey 1966:292-310).

The term "Mississippian" refers to a number of related cultural

forms which developed during this period of time. The nuclear area

and nominator for this "Formative-level culture" (Willey and Phillips

1958:163-170) is the central Mississippi River Valley. Regional

variants of the culture developed in other areas of the Southeast,

each defining distinctive adaptations to particular environmental

and historical contexts (e.g. Caldwell 1958). Some common features

of this adaptation are a central position of agriculture in the

economy, fully sedentary villages, relatively large populations,

pronounced social segmentation, platform mound construction, and

elaborate ceremonialism. I am concerned here with developments on

the Georgia coast during the Mississippian Period and their relation

to Mississippian events and processes occurring elsewhere in

the Southeast, particularly in Georgia.

This period on the Georgia coast is defined by two cultural

phases called Wilmington and Savannah. Some would also include the

Irene "hase within the terminal portion of this period, however

indications are that Irene is an early historic aboriginal phase.

I briefly review in this section the available evidence for each of

these phases and provide an assessment of the associated cultural

forms and the changes that occurred on the Georgia coast during the

Mississippian Period. Important locations discussed in the text are

shown in Figure II.

Wilmington Phase (ca. 700 1000 A.D.)

Wilmington-Phase sites, defined in terms of a distinctive pottery

type, have an extensive coastal distribution. Wilmington heavy

cord-marked, sherd-tempered pottery (Caldwell and Waring 1939a:

113-116, Caldwell 1952:316-317) is commonly found at coastal sites

from around the St. Marys River at the Georgia-Florida border north

into North Carolina.

Wilmington pottery along the Georgia coast is most frequently

heavy linear cord marked and tempered with large pieces of ground

sherd; however, tempering materials and paste characteristics can

be quite variable. While sherd tempering is most common, non-plastic

inclusions may frequently range from sand to larger quartz grit.

About 14% of the Wilmington Cord-Marked sherds identified from St.

Simons Island had sand and grit inclusions in the paste to the ex-

clusion of ground-sherd fragments (Martinez 1975:70). Wilmington

pottery identified at the Groton Plantation was exclusively sand

tempered (Stoltman 1974). Variability in the composition of paste

and tempering materials is expectable, and probably results from

variation in the physical properties of exploited clay sources. It

may well be that riverine clays used in the Groton-Plantation area

were suitable for pottery manufacture without inclusion of additional

tempering materials.




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Wilmington pottery occurs infrequently south of the St. Marys

River, for example at sites on Amelia Island (Bullen and Griffen 1952,

Hemmings and Deagan 1973). This northeastern Florida area was the

home of a different and longer-lasting cultural phase known as St.

Johns (Goggin 1952). The northern boundary of Wilmington is more

poorly defined, but South (1976) reports Wilmington pottery along

the southern portion of the North Carolina coast. Distribution

probably ends somewhere in North Carolina. The sherd-tempered ware

is very rare in Virginia, although cord marking remains a popular

decorative technique for a long period of time (Evans 1955).

There is reason to believe that the Wilmington pottery distri-

bution is associated with variant cultural adaptations. Anderson (1975)

has shown that north of the Santee River in South Carolina the pottery

is distributed along inland rivers up to the Fall Line as well as

along the coast. This possibly suggests a coastal and interior

riverine adaptation, and perhaps seasonal settlement shifts. South of

the Santee River, Wilmington sites are most commonly located along

the coast and are rarely encountered in inland, riverine contexts

beyond the Tidewater Biome. The southern Wilmington sites are located

either adjacent to tidal streams and salt marsh or in upland, oak-forest

areas in shell-free contexts. A tidewater settlement and subsistence

system is indicated for the southern Wilmington sites, however ad-

ditional cultural similarities and differences remain to be demonstrated.

Arguments about the origin of Wilmington are speculative at this

point. Caldwell (1958:33-34) regards Wilmington as a coastal intrusion

with marked differences, primarily in pottery, from the preceding

Deptford Phase. The tetrapodal, check-stamped, sand-tempered Deptford

pottery was replaced by linear cord-marked, sherd-tempered, cylindrical

jar forms of Wilmington. He suggests coastal North or South Carolina

as the origin of this intrusion, but also points out that burial

mounds, defined as Wilmington-Phase trait, are absent in the northern

areas. This unshared trait led him to conclude that "the original

Wilmington homeland may not be easy to discover" (Caldwell 1958:34).

That Wilmington burial mounds exist at all is a debatable point.

As Stoltman (1974:24-27) has argued, none of the supposed Wilmington

mounds can definitely be attributed to the Wilmington Phase. Certainly

none of these mounds have burials associated with Wilmington pottery

vessels, nor have any of the burials been dated to the Wilmington

Period with Carbon-14 estimates.

New evidence presented by South (1976) gives some support to the

northern-origin hypothesis. South suggests that Wilmington Cord

Marked pottery is a late component and Hanover Fabric-Marked pottery

the earlier component of what he calls the Wilmington Ware Group.

While both components of this group extend from North Carolina

south to around the Charleston area, only the Wilmington component

extends further south. As I understand South, this indicates that

Wilmington developed out of Hanover and spread south along the

Atlantic coast into Georgia after the Deptford Phase. South stops

short of actually saying this, but it is the logical conclusion of

his chronology and distribution argument.

Others have suggested that Wilmington was affiliated with interior

Georgia. Waring (1968) proposed that the coastal Wilmington intrusion

was contemporary and somehow associated with the Mississippian movement

into the Macon area. Recent Carbon-14 dates suggest that Wilmington

precedes the Macon Plateau period and that his theory is probably

an error. Milanich and others (1976) have suggested that some

interior coastal plain riverine sites with cord-marked pottery are

simply interior Wilmington sites. Recent investigations along the

Ocmulgee Big Bend area (Snow 1977) have shown an extensive distribution

of small sites with cord-marked pottery. This pottery series, called

Ocmulgee Cord Marked, has broad folded rims, cross and linear cord

marking, and usually sandy to temperless paste. While the variant

paste could result from differences in clay sources, the other

characteristics seem to distinguish this series from Wilmington

pottery. Firm temporal determinations are needed for the Ocmulgee

Cord-Marked pottery series before any adequate assessment of coastal

interior relationships can be made.

Turning away from questions of origins and interior affinities,

an examination of the Wilmington Phase in its secure Georgia coastal

setting is more important for our present purposes. As previously

mentioned there appear to be two types of Wilmington sites in the

Tidewater Biome: marsh-edge, shell-deposit sites and highland oak

forest sites. More is known about the marsh-edge sites than the less

visible shell-free, oak-forest sites.

The Walthour site, located on Wilmington Island at the mouth

of the Savannah River, is a Wilmington-Phase marsh-edge site. This

site consists of intermittent deposits of shell midden extending

parallel to the marsh. Caldwell (1958:34) says that at the Walthour

site, "shell heaps were several feet high and a solid bank of oyster

shell lined the edge of the tidewater marsh from which shell fish were

secured." This linear arrangement also characterized the Deptford

site, located on a bluff along the Savannah River (Caldwell and

McCann?1940). The stratigraphic position of Wilmington-Phase pottery

over that of the Deptford Phase was clearly demonstrated from tests

along the bluff. A number of features and burials were encountered

at the Deptford Bluff but their cultural proveniences were undem-

onstrated. They were assumed to belong to either the Deptford

or Wilmington Phases. Features included wall trenches and numerous

pits filled with midden debris, but no house patterns were recognized.

Forty-two burials in flexed or extended positions were also excavated

along the bluff, but these lacked accompaniments that would indicate

their associated phase.

Additional information concerning Wilmington-Phase shell midden

sites comes from barrier islands along the central Georgia coast.

Carbon-14 estimates from two Wilmington-Phase shell middens on St.

Catherines Island indicate dates of A.D. 735 + 115 and A.D. 905- 200

(Caldwell 1970). This temporal position is supported by a Carbon

14 date of A.D. 820 70 from a Wilmington shell midden on St.

Simons Island (Milanich 1977). The Wilmington midden tested on St.

Simons was one of many shell deposits scattered along the marsh edge

at Cannon's Point. Another shell midden in this area contained mixed

components ranging from the fiber-tempered pottery of the St. Simons

Phase to Wilmington Phase. Refuse appears to have been deposited

along the marsh edge for a considerable period of time, at least

until the Wilmington Period (Martinez 1975:60-66).

The Wilmington marsh-edge middens suggest a settlement and sub-

sistence pattern with an estuarine focus. There is little information

available about subsistence other than the obvious exploitation of

marine molluscs, primarily oysters. The only analysis of Wilmington

faunal components is a small sample gathered from the midden on St.

Simons Island (Martinez 1975:60-63, 90-95). Fauna other than molluscs

included white-tailed deer, raccoon, mink, pine snake, mud turtle,

diamondback terrapin, eagle ray, drum, sheepshead, sea catfish, herring,

and mullet. Remains of at least two deer and two diamondback terrapin

were identified; however,the remaining species could have been re-

presented by only one individual each. The small vertebrate sample

prohibits reliable seasonal determinations, but subsistence evidently

involved exploitation of a variety of habitats including freshwater,

estuarine, and terrestrial areas. Based on earlier arguments presented

about oysters, it would seem that a major portion of the midden was

deposited during the winter or early spring. The turtles, pine snake,

and catfish possibly suggest that deposition was in the early spring

period, as these species are generally inaccessible during the cool

winter months.

Wilmington pottery was found scattered behind the midden deposits

at Deptford Bluff and St. Simons Island. This may indicate that

residences were located adjacent to the linear area of refuse deposition,

but again no house patterns of this phase have been identified.

The presence of Wilmington-Phase sites in interior areas of the

Tidewater Biome is documented by three recent surveys. The first is

a survey of the Big Mortar-Snuffbox Swamp in Long and McIntosh

Counties, Georgia (Zurel, Gresham and Hally 1975). The next survey

is of the Ebenezer Creek watershed, located between the Ogeechee

and Savannah Rivers (Fish 1976, 1978). The third is of the Groton

Plantation along the northern side of the Savannah River (Stoltman

1974). The Big Mortar-Snuffbox Swamp is located on the mainland

opposite Sapelo Island and the other two survey areas are along the

western edge of the Tidewater Biome (cf. Fish 1976:2, 1978:334).

The Groton Plantation appears to be located just beyond the Tidewater

Biome, but the Wicomico Formation briefly turns at the Savannah River

and extends far enough northwest to include the surveyed area (see

Cooke 1936). Groton Plantation is, nevertheless, in a marginal

tidewater context.

These interior coastal sites with Wilmington components are

located on river bluffs and on pockets of well-drained soil surrounded

by freshwater swamp. The upland locations of these sites indicate a

dispersed settlement pattern that probably results from seasonal

exploitation of oak-forest resources such as acorns and deer (cf.

Stoltman 1974:216). The bluff locations would have provided access

to the large rivers and these sites may have been utilized for oak

forest as well as riverine exploitation.

Present evidence allows only a tentative assessment of the

'ilmington subsistence system. It appears that small groups exploited

oak-forest resources during the fall and a wide range of terrestrial

and estuarine food sources during the winter and early spring. At

some part of the year, perhaps during the spring, they may have relied

on riverine resources. It is clear that Wilmington-Phase settlements

were small and scattered, and never large and nucleated. This

suggests a rather low level of socio-cultural integration. We may

expect that the Wilmington Phase was associated with small, semi-nomadic

hunting and gathering groups organized at a band level of socio-cultural

integration (see Service 1962:107-108).

This band-level organization adapted to the Tidewater Biome

evidently had a substantial history. The same general dispersed

settlement pattern in the oak forests and along the estuaries long

preceded the Wilmington Phase. Although pottery styles changed through

time, this basic cultural form applies to populations who lived on the

coast since the appearance of pottery at approximately 2500 B.C.,

and perhaps even earlier. A single exception to this organizational

level may have been the Late Swift Creek coastal settlement, as evi-

denced by the large mound and village complex along the lower Altamaha

River at the Evelyn Site (Waring and Holder 1968:1l0). Little is

known about this intrusion, but it seems to have a short life and

was possibly an unsuccessful colonization attempt by a more culturally

advanced interior group (see Cook 1978 for other speculations about

Late Swift Creek and Kelvin on the Georgia coast).

Evolutionary changes certainly occurred during this 3500-year

period of coastal prehistory, such as slowly increasing sedentariness

and gradual population growth. However subsistence technology and

socio-political integration appears to have remained remarkably stable.

Milanich (1971)has called this conservative adaptation the "Coastal

Tradition." Whether the cultural phases of this tradition were

intrusions along the coast or in situ developments, as Milanich

argues, the coast appears to have been occupied by band-level cultures

for a long period of time.

Savannah Phase (ca. 1000 1540 A.D.)

The Savannah Phase marks the end of the band level of socio-

cultural integration and the beginning of more complex socio-political

arrangements on the Georgia coast. This change evidently resulted from

modifications in existing Wilmington-Phase adaptations rather than

purely technological advancements or invasion and displacement by some

exotic group. The Savannah Phase is characterized by nucleated settle-

ments, platform mounds, and the extensive use of single locations as

cemeteries resulting in burial mound constructions. Cord-marked pottery

decoration persisted but now was defined by finer marking and crossed

as well as linear designs. Check-stamped, complicated-stamped, and

burnished-plain pottery were added to the Savannah complex, as well as

more specifically Mississippian shapes such as cazuelas.

Settlement locations occupied during the Wilmington Phase continued

to be used during the Savannah Phase. The dispersed Wilmington-Phase

settlement pattern applies to the Savannah Phase as well, but was now

part of a more complex cultural system. This was also the time of

population growth on the coast as evidenced by the greatly increased

number of Savannah-Phase archaeological sites. For example in the Big

Mortar-Snuffbox Swamp (Zurel. Gresham, and Hally 1975), there are

!.5 times as many Savannah-component sites (n=18) as Wilmington-component

sites (n=4).

Most of our information about the Savannah Phase comes from

excavations around the mouth of the Savannah River. The Irene

Mound site, located on a bluff overlooking the river about five miles

above the city of Savannah, is considered the classic example of

a Savannah-Phase ceremonial center (Caldwell and McCann 1941). This

site is quite small, covering approximately 2 hectares (5 acres), and

its Savannah-Phase features are a platform mound with seven construction

levels and ascending ramps, most of the interments in an adjacent

burial mound, numerous long wall trenches that divide the site into

segments, and three small domestic-like structures (Features 26,

53, 56) located within the enclosed segments. Each construction

stage of the platform mound was associated with rectangular buildings

and the final platform stages were also surrounded by enclosing walls.

Several important conclusions may be drawn from internal evidence

from the Irene Mound site. The energy expended in construction of

the platform mound is greater than that which can be explained by the

size of the population resident at the site. Labor forces beyond

the site must have been employed for construction. The enclosed

portions of the site indicate internal spatial organization, and

again this plan probably functioned to organize activities beyond

those of the small resident population. One of the enclosed areas

extends south and west of the platform mound and defines a large,

open plaza-like area. This area and the platform-mound buildings

were probably associated with activities involving a larger, but

less visible segment of the Savannah-Phase population.

The Savannah-Phase portion of the Irene site certainly reflects

only a segment of a functioning cultural system. The social function

of this segment may be hypothesized based on the construction features

represented at the site. The platform mounds and enclosures indicate

socio-political authority in terms of organization of a sufficient

labor force for their construction. The domicile-like structures

suggest that the site was also a small residential area. The size

of these houses suggests that they were primarily nuclear family

residences. While there is little else that would distinguish

these structures as high-status residences, their presence at a site

which is otherwise defined by communal features indicates that they

denote an integral part of the socio-political structure. It appears

that the site was occupied by a central political figure, and probably

his immediate relatives. The division into two enclosed areas may

have separated the lineage of the chief from his wife or wives and

his children, although much more evidence is needed to demonstrate


The social position of the Irene site needs to be considered

when comparing the Savannah-Phase material culture represented at

the site with other Savannah sites. It should be remembered that

the Irene site was a Savannah-Phase political and ceremonial center

rather than a purely residential area. Chronologies developed within

the Savannah Period have ignored the possibility of social distinctions

so clearly suggested at the Irene site.

Ideal Savannah-Phase divisions consist of an early ceramic

complex, Savannah I, defined by fine cord-marked and burnished-plain

pottery. The later pottery complex, Savannah II, is defined by the

addition or at least increased abundance of check-stamped pottery,

the addition of complicated-stamped designs, and the continuance of

cord marking and burnishing. The cazuela burnished-plain forms

continued to be made but vessels with other surface treatments con-

sisted of jars with flaring rims and small bowls (see Caldwell

1952, Caldwell and Waring 1939a, cf. Caldwell and Waring 1939b).

The Savannah II complex was characteristic of pottery recovered

from the Irene site. The Savannah I complex was identified from

mound contexts such as the Deptford burial mound (Caldwell and McCann

nd.), Haven Home or Indian King's Tomb (Waring 1968), and several

other mound and village areas around the mouth of the Savannah River.

Caldwell (1952:318) suggested that several mounds in the central

Georgia coastarea may also be of the Savannah I period.

That Savannah II is later than Savannah I is, with a single

exception, totally a logical chronology and without stratigraphic

support. The exception is the Norman Mound in McIntosh County,

Georgia (Larson 1957). Here the sub-mound levels contained high

frequencies of Savannah Fine Cord-Marked pottery at the expense of

Savannah Check-Stamped pottery. The central shell core and the

mound fill contained increased amounts of the check-stamped variety.

Check-stamped and burnished-plain pottery accompanied the Savannah

Phase burials. While the stratigraphy supports Savannah II as being

later than Savannah I at the Norman Mound, it is important that pre-

mound and mortuary strata are being compared. The pottery differences

could still be explained in terms of a mortuary versus domestic

association, rather than by temporal differences.

It is probably significant that on St. Simons Island, Savannah

Cord-Marked pottery appears to have increased through time at the

expense of check-stamped decorations, suggesting that Savannah I

is later than Savannah II. This may indicate that the two complexes

are actually contemporary: however, based on present evidence

conclusive arguments can be made neither for chronological nor social

differences in the Savannah pottery complexes. It is likely that

both processes were operating in the manufacture, use, and deposition

of pottery and we must be aware of the two possibilities.

A certain amount of regionalization occurred during the Savannah

Phase that appears to be directly associated with the two major

freshwater river systems. The two Savannah-Phase regions may be

defined as the Savannah Region and the Altamaha Region. Their

boundaries are somewhat amorphous, probably because of sparse infor-

mation, but can be tentatively defined. The Savannah Region extends

from around the Coosa River in South Carolina to the \Medway River

in Georgia and the Altamaha Region includes that area of the Georgia

coast from the Medway River to around the Satilla River. A marginal

extension of the Altamaha Region continues as far south as Amelia

Island, however occupation appears to have been concentrated to

the north. Each region is confined to the Tidewater Biome.

Both regions share the main diagnostic traits of the Savannah

Phase such as extensive use of burial mounds, nucleated settlement,

and fine cord-marked, check-stamped, and burnished-plain pottery.

The distinctive features of the Savannah Region include platform

mounds and a relative abundance of complicated stamped potter'-; however,

these two elements are uncommon even in the Savannah Region. Only

one platform mound other than that at the Irene site is documented

in the region, and it is assumed to be a Savannah-Phase construction

without direct evidence. This mound, Indian Hill, was investigated

by C.B. Moore and is located on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.

This truncated mound was about 13 ft. high, its base measured 138

ft. by 129 ft., and its level summit was 62 ft. across. Moore

(1898:16L) says that, "a number of post-holes from which the wood

had rotted, still unfilled, were found in four distinct levels ..

No burials were met with and we must regard the mound at Indian Hill

as erected for domiciliary purposes."

Savannah Complicated-Stamped pottery is a clear indication of

interior contact with the coast. The coastal pottery is decorated

with figure-eight, various concentric circles, and nested-diamond

stamped designs. The similarity with Wilbanks stamped pottery in

northern Georgia is so striking that for several years Wilbanks was

referred to as Savannah Complicated-Stamped pottery (see Fairbanks

1950: Wauchope 1966). Sears (1958) named the northern Georgia pottery

complex "Wilbanks." Etowah Complicated-Stamped designs, also a

Mississippian Period northern Georgia type, also are found on Savannah

Complicated-Stamped pottery. Etowah designs include nested diamonds

and other rectilinear elements in addition to the later Wilbanks

designs such as figure eights, concentric circles and scrolls. The

infrequency of complicated-stamped pottery with these designs in the

Savannah Region may indicate that many are actually trade wares.

Savannah-Phase cazuela bowls are another indication of interior

Mississippian Period influences, but unlike the complicated-stamped

pottery, this form has a widespread Savannah-Phase distribution.

The Altamaha Region lacks many of the outward signs of interior

influences. The negative evidence includes the absence of platform

mounds and much less Savannah Complicated-Stamped pottery. The

Savannah-Phase pottery complex in the Altamaha Region is at variance

with the pottery types defined for the Savannah Region. While details

of these differences are presently undemonstrated, many archaeologists

working on the coast have noted that the Savannah River type de-

scriptions are only partially applicable to the central Georgia

coast during Savannah or later Periods (Caldwell 1970: Larson 1955,

1958; Milanich 1977). Definition of these differences is an important

problem for current research on the coast. A conclusion that can be

drawn at this point is that this variation seems to be associated with

the Altamaha Region.

Arguments could be made that the Savannah Phase in the Altamaha

Region is simply the result of spreading influences from the Savannah

Region. However, certain developments just prior to the Savannah

Phase along the Ocmulgee River near the Fall Line suggest that this

may have been an additional direction of Altamaha Region influences.

The Macon Plateau Phase at Ocmulgee clearly represents the intrusion

of a fully agricultural, stratified population with fortified, planned

villages containing temple mounds and buildings with politico-religious

functions. The estimated temporal range of the phase extends from

around 900 co 1100 A.D., making it contemporary with the beginning

of the Savannah Phase (see Fairbanks 1956, Wilson 1964).

The Macon Plateau Period was rather short and transportable material

culture elements such as pottery and religious paraphernalia were

sytlistically simple. These factors may explain the sparsity of

observable Macon elements during the Savannah Phase. The multitude

of negative evidence proposed for the Altamaha Region is insecure

grounds for assessment, however if one considers that social changes

were responsible for developments in the Savannah Phase, then the

possibility of Macon Plateau influences becomes more credible.

That the Savannah Phase was built directly upon a Wilmington

socio-cultural system and included descendents of the Wilmington

population is a long-standing hypothesis. Cord-marked pottery and

sherd tempering are only two indications of Wilmington affiliations.

Based on his Savannah I distinction, Caldwell (1952:317) says that

this period "follows Wilmington, apparently without a sharp break

and might easily have been named 'Late Wilmington.'" When discussing

the Savannah II Period he concludes that it may be "regarded as a

fusion of the old coastal culture with Middle Mississippian influences

from the interior" (Caldwell 1952:318).

Savannah-Phase settlement pattern also shows a continuation of

parts of the Wilmington system. Sites with Savannah-Phase components

occur in the same locations as Wilmington and earlier phase sites

(see Stoltman 1974; Fish 1976; Zurel, Gresham and Hally 1975).

Savannah settlements are located throughout the Tidewater Biome in

dispersed highland areas surrounded by swamp, on river bluffs, and

on well-drained land along or near the estuaries. Important Savannah

Phase additions were nucleated settlements near estuaries and occasional

small settlements along the freshwater rivers beyond the Tidewater

Biome. One of these interior riverine settlements is represented by

a site (9AplO) located along the upper Altamaha River in Appling

County, Georgia. Savannah Check-Stamped and Fine Cord-Marked pottery

was identified from surface collections at this site (Snow 1977:L2).

Nucleated settlements are rather infrequent and rarely have been

investigated. Extensive excavations have been carried out only at

the Irene site. Major nucleated settlements are found on Ossabaw Island

at Middle Settlement (9Chl58) and Bluff Field (9Chl60)(Pearson 1977),

on St. Simons Island at Cooper's Field and Indian Field (Wallace 1975),

on Cumberland Island at High Point (NPS 9Cam35) (Ehrenhard 1976),

and on Sapelo Island at Kenan Field and Bourbon Field. Only the

Cooper's Field and Kenan Field sites can be assigned to the Savannah

Phase with confidence. Indian Field and probably Bourbon Field are

Irene and Sutherland Bluff-Phase sites. Pearson (1977) argues, based

on surface collections and limited test excavations, that both

large sites on Ossabaw Island are Irene Phase. While the pottery

recovered from Middle Settlement suggests an Irene-Phase provenience,

assignment of Bluff Field is based on 1l sherds and is hardly secure.

Further investigations will probably show that nucleated sites occur

on other barrier islands and perhaps the adjacent mainland, particularly

near the junction of major freshwater rivers with estuaries as at the

Irene site. It also appears that this settlement form continues into

later periods, but usually in different locations.

Savannah-Phase subsistence probably also followed the Wilmington

pattern. Considering interior influences, it is probable that agricul-

ture was practiced but there is no direct evidence. There are no

analyses of faunal materials associated with closed Savannah-Phase

contexts, but the numerous shell midden deposits attest an estuarine

focus. The high-ground swamp sites were probably, as during the

Wilmington Phase, occupied for the exploitation of oak-forest resources.

The interior riverine locations were possibly bases for the exploitation

of anadromous fish. The nucleated estuarine settlements possibly

indicate that subsistence technology involved a larger-group effort

that that represented by the scattered settlement pattern.

It is obvious that much more information is needed before secure

conclusions can be drawn concerning many parameters of this prehistoric

adaptation. However, it is important that for the first time the

available evidence suggests a cultural system much like the one

presented in the ethnohistoric model. The Savannah-Phase system may

have assumed this general form.

There is some evidence that the Savannah Phase extended into

the historic period, but a terminal date is uncertain. One of two

dogs buried in a Savannah-Phase cemetery at Cooper's Field was

accompanied by the musket ball that was evidently the cause of death.

Wallace (1975:121-141) concludes, through rather complicated and

debatable means, that the burial complex was associated with a

mortuary building and perhaps a mound. Pottery in the disturbed soil

over the burials indicates extensive use during the Savannah Phase,

and the dog was probably killed and buried late in that period. This

evidence suggests that the Savannah Phase survived into the period of

European contact. We tentatively mark the end of the Savannah Period

at 1550 A.D., however it could have ended any time between 1521 when

Allyon's men visited the coast and the last decade of the sixteenth

century. There would have been little evidence of Spanish contact

during this time since military and missionary activities were sporadic

and generally unsuccessful.

In conclusion, the Savannah Phase provides an example of a

Mississippian Period acculturation process. Details of this process

will undoubtedly become more clear as research progresses; however,

some general suggestions can be offered at this time. As Ralph

Linton has concluded, there are two common features of culture contact

and the transfer of culture elements.

First, borrowing [of culture elements] is normally a reciprocal
process, and second, its logical, although by no means always
its actual, end product is the amalgamation of the two cultures
involved, resulting in a new culture differing in certain respects
from either of its parent cultures [Linton 1940:491].

What we know of the Savannah Phase demonstrates the latter point.

It was a blend of elements from the Wilmington Phase and those from

a more complex cultural configuration, i.e. an interior, chiefdom-level

cultural system. The result was a distinct cultural system adapted

to the coastal environment. The central role of agriculture was

certainly diminished in the infertile coastal soils, and hunting and

gathering remained of primary importance. The "culture elements"

transferred to the coast appear to have been primarily social and

political. This resulted in the reorganization of Wilmington settle-

ment and subsistence systems towards greater productivity.

Invasion and annihilation, transformation, and incorporation

are three broad categories that define the nature of cultural contacts

between socieites of unequal socio-political complexity (Fried 1952).

Savannah-Phase developments may be understood in terms of a mixture

of incorporation and transformation, but possibly without the violent

military action that Fried includes in these processes. For the

Savannah-Phase case, the process appears to have involved incorporation

and alteration of the existing cultural form under an exotic social

and political superstructure. This process commonly applies to

marginal areas such as the Georgia coast, in which the natural resources

are of limited importance to the more complex cultural system. To

the degree that the contact area is isolated, the foreign superstructure

is precluded from continual contact with and support from the parent

culture and becomes an integral part of the contact-cultural system.

Irene-Sutherland Bluff Phases (ca. 1540-1680)

This period on the Georgia coast is composed of Irene and

Sutherland Bluff Phases. The Irene Phase is defined by a Pine Harbor

variant that is restricted to the Altamaha Region and an Irene

variant that is restricted to the Savannah Region. The Irene Phase

is followed by the Sutherland Bluff Phase in the Altamaha Region.

Since this period is properly beyond the scope of the present inquiry,

discussion is limited to a few comments and certain factors which

have direct bearing on the Savannah Phase. The Altamaha and Savannah

Regions continued to define areas of distinctive but related material

culture assemblages and were probably associated with culturally

similar populations. This Savannah-Phase pattern was intensified and

may be recognized with greater clarity during the Irene Phase.