Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Burials: The Plains

George W. Gill and Rhoda Owen Lewis
1977 A Plains Woodland Burial From The Badlands Of Western Nebraska. The Plains Anthropologist 22:67-73
                This article focuses on a  burial site discovered on the eastern side of a hill, near an intermittent stream, in western Sioux County, Nebraska. Part of the remains were lost, while most of it remained intact. The stream had exposed part of the skeleton, some potsherds, a worked flake, and some charcoal. The worked flake and vessel seemed to have been intentional grave goods. The charcoal gave the date of 750 + 90 B.P. The vessel was pieced together and was found to be elliptical and symmetrical. It had incised surface designs, which could have come from cord marking or brush marking. The designs covered the exterior and a portion of the interior from the rim inward. It had two holes near the base, possibly for a leather piece to be attached in order to either secure or repair the pot.   
               However, the physical traits of the remains did not entirely fit in with the characteristics of the Central Plains Woodland or neighboring Hopewell. The features that set it apart were size, robusticity, and a few specific indices. Rather, the skeleton  more closely resembles one of the  culturally unrelated populations just to the west in Wyoming. So, why does the burial placement and vessel whisper of Woodland culture, while the skeletal remains do not? The flexed burial placement of the remains is common in eastern Nebraska, while in northern Kansas, the most common way of interment was the extended primary form. This would suggest that both primary forms are encountered within the Woodland and Kansas City Hopewell sites.
               So, does that mean that the Woodland culture spread throughout the Plains rather than an actual population migration? All of the evidence gathered from this burial seems to point to the previously stated notion as being correct. While the vessel is reminiscent of the Woodland culture and the remains are not, the burial position is.

Gayle F. Carlson, John R. Bozell, Terry L. Steinacher, Marjorie Brooks Lovvorn, and George W. Gill    
1999 The Sidney Burial: A Middle Plains Archaic Mortuary Site From Western Nebraska. Journal of the Plains Anthropological Society 44:105-119
               This article presents the burial that contained the partial remains of a young adult male and an infant whose sex was indeterminate. The burial was located in the south-central area of Cheyenne County in the Nebraska Panhandle.  The burial pit held several artifacts that are thought to have been placed intentionally: freshwater mussel shell fragments, amazonite pendants, bird bones, a notched biface, and a  fragmented turtle carapace. 
                The mussel shell placement, under the cranium and near the ribcage, presents the notion that they were intentional. The five pendants were found below and surrounding the head. They are all smooth and are teardrop in shape. All five have a peg protruding from an end. Four of them show evidence of being stained with red ocher. A prime source for amazonite is in Colorado, located 190 miles southwest of the Sidney Burial . The carapace was fragmented and located near the chest. The fragments have four holes drilled into them. This suggests that it was either a pendant or a gorget.
                The bird bones are that a of a raven. They have red ocher staining, and they have been known ceremonial and ornamental items of the Late Prehistoric Plains Indians. This burial gives the earliest example, in the Plains, of the use of raven bones as funerary objects. The botanical remains found in the grave included two unspecified grasses, an unspecified fern, ragweed, oak, Cheno-ams, and sunflower. It is not certain whether these are contaminates or not. Radiometric dating of 2288-2466 B.C. placed the burial in the early Middle Plains Archaic period.
                This still leaves the question of what cultural affiliation this burial had.  The debate was between McKean or Oxbow. Walker gave clarity to the issue. Mckean interments were underneath the floors of living areas. Oxbow interments were found in large burial areas or in isolated ones, away from the living areas. All Oxbow interments he studied had powdered red ocher; McKean burials did not. The biface and other items thought to be intentional also lend credence to the thought that the Sidney Burial is related to the Oxbow.

1 comment:

  1. These are very interesting sounding articles. The first one reminds me of an article I read for my annotated bibliography on the possible reasoning behind the Crow Creek Massacre being migration from other Native American populations causing a strain on resources. Granted, this was in the Plains Village tradition, but if the Woodlands tradition was spreading, then who's to say that other traditions might not have been spreading as well as migrating, which then could cause stresses on resources as well as cultural changes in the various societies?