The settlement archaeology of Singer-Moye, a large 14th-century town in the Chattahoochee Valley
Brannan, Stefan Patrick
MetadataShow full item record
This research characterizes processes that result in the emergence and continued maintenance of large settlements in the southeastern United States ca. AD 1100-1500. The primary study area is Singer-Moye, a large settlement containing eight mounds and two plazas, located in the lower Chattahoochee River valley in southwestern Georgia, and occupied during the late Precontact period (ca. AD 1100-1500). Most studies of settlements with monumental and public architecture dating to this period interpret these locations as the central place of a chiefdom or administratively centralized regional polity. However, intrasite historic settlement patterns at most of these sites are not well understood. To address this problem, I systematically surveyed 61 hectares at Singer-Moye. I created a local chronological framework using relative and absolute dating techniques. I compared historic changes in settlement size and the pace and timing of monumental and public constructions to other similar settlements in the region. I found that Singer-Moye remained relatively small between ca. AD 1100-1300, never exceeding six hectares and marked by the construction of a single mound. Between ca. AD 1300-1400, Singer-Moye experienced a rapid population increase as indicated by an expansion 2 of the settlement footprint to at least 29.2 hectares. Coincident with this expansion was a massive monumental and public architecture construction program, including the layout of two plazas, between four and seven mounds, and the demarcation of interior settlement space. After AD 1400, the Singer-Moye settlement decreased to less than ten hectares, and only a single large mound was in use before the site was abandoned ca. AD 1500. I argue that the rapid changes in the settlement footprint occurred from cycles of population aggregation and dispersal, and that the construction and modification of the built environment represented the manifestations of community level decision making aimed at reducing scalar stress and increasing positive social interactions. More generally, I propose that in addition to political centralization, long-term aggregation and regional functional and/or ritual specialization played an important role in the emergence and persistence of large settlements.