Regional patterns of animal use during the Woodland and Mississippian periods in the Central Mississippi Valley
Compton, Jonathan Matthew
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In 1975 Bruce Smith developed a model of Mississippian animal use for the Central Mississippi Valley. Although often cited, the model remains largely untested at the regional scale. My study elaborates and expands upon Smith's model of animal use to assess broad patterns of vertebrate animal use for the Woodland and Mississippian periods (ca. 600 B.C.-A.D. 1550) in the Central Mississippi Valley. The central goals of the study are: (1) to determine if animal use patterns practiced by Woodland and Mississippian groups were distinctive to the Central Mississippi Valley; (2) to identify regional differences in animal use within the valley; and (3) to ascertain if there is evidence of change in animal use from the Woodland to Mississippian periods. The study employs a multi-scalar approach with two distinct levels of analysis. The large-scale analysis interprets zooarchaeological data compiled from an exhaustive literature search. Included in the large-scale analysis are faunal data from 65 Woodland and Mississippian sites from the Central Mississippi Valley and adjacent regions. Collectively, the 65 sites include 440,905 vertebrate specimens representing 201 taxa. The second, finer-scale analysis focuses on a comparison of zooarchaeological data from three sites in northeast Arkansas: Upper Nodena, Parkin, and Meador. This study provides a comprehensive assessment of available zooarchaeological data regarding vertebrate animal use by Woodland and Mississippian groups of the region. Large-scale regional analysis indicates the Woodland and Mississippian inhabitants of the Central Mississippi Valley made greater use of aquatic animals, particularly fish and migratory waterfowl, than did inhabitants of adjacent upland areas. Within the Central Mississippi Valley, animal use reflects access to aquatic habitats. In contrast to the economic, social, and political changes characteristic of the Woodland to Mississippian transition, there is little evidence for a major region-wide shift in animal use during these periods, suggesting local environmental conditions were the primary drivers behind variation in animal use at the regional scale. Finer-resolution analysis of zooarchaeological data, however, indicates that variability in animal use also can be attributed to temporal factors. Temporal shifts in animal use at the local scale are observable only when local environmental conditions are carefully considered.