Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Non-Projectile Lithics: The Southeast

Johnson, Jay K.
1993 Poverty Point Period Quartz Crystal Drill Bits, Microliths, and Social Organization in the Yazoo Basin, Mississippi, Southeastern Archaeology, 12(1):59-64.

            Through an analysis of the Slate site, listed as a site of the Poverty Point period, this article explores the possibility of Poverty Point being socially organized as a chiefdom, through analysis of lithics found at the Slate site, as well as the Jaketown site, both considered to be of Poverty Point.
            Excavation of the Slate site uncovered a wide range of cores at the site, located 32 kilometers south of Jaketown. As the two sites are so close in proximity, archaeologists expected to find similar methods of creating tools, specifically in blades from cores; the procedure in creating blades can be seen from the cores left behind, and from those cores evidence of similar procedures can also be discovered.
            In the Slate cores, however, there was evidence of a wide variety of techniques used—where Jaketown and another nearby site, Paxton Brake, both showed use of one or two techniques (such as one-platform style cores, where a blade is created stretching the entire length of the core, or two-platform style cores where two smaller blades are produced on one side of the core), the Slate cores show many different styles.
            Also found at the Slate site were several slate beads, in a completely different style than beads found at other sites. It is hypothesized that the differences in the cores left at the Slate site are due to them being used also as drills, to create the beads. The beads found at the Slate site are, appropriately, made of slate. However, beads found at Jaketown, an extremely close site, have virtually no traces of slate on site.
            The differences between these two sites—Jaketown and Slate—are unexpected. As the sites are close, and considered to be Poverty Point sites, they should be in the same interaction sphere, yet materials were not really shared between the sites. This does not support the hypothesis that Poverty Point was a chiefdom, since there is little to no evidence of interaction between two of the three well-studied Poverty Point sites (Jaketown, Slate, as well as Teoc Creek), despite them being in the same interaction sphere.

Walthall, John A. and George R. Holley
1997 Mobility and Hunter-Gatherer Toolkit Design: Analysis of a Dalton Lithic Cache, Southeastern Archaeology, 16(2):152-162.

            After a recent project for a large excavation of southern Illinois, several new sites were found, the discovery totaling about 200 artifacts recovered. Among these artifacts were ten tools found in a cache, 35 kilometers east of the Mississippi river.
            This cache, one of almost thirty pits discovered, was unique, in that it was lined in red ocher. The pit, named the Lembke cache, contained microflakes, a small bone fragment, unidentified plant remains, as well as ten tools that were characteristic of Dalton artifacts. Included in this pit was one Dalton point, one adze, two flake knives, and six endscrapers.
            The analysis of the tools revealed the need for almost all of them to require being hafted, as well as a few having the potential for being dual-purpose (such as the adze also potentially being a core). These characteristics implied the cache being for tools made for traveling, as the entire cache was lightweight—the heaviest object was the adze, weighing approximately half of the entire lot. Additionally, the pit is not characteristic of a mortuary ceremony, as the pit is very small, and would not hold more than the tools, making it unlikely that the set of tools is from a burial. Furthermore, the presence of red ocher supports the idea of the cache being left from animal hide processing, as red ocher was used on hides in addition to oils and such.
            In addition to supporting the idea of the Dalton traveling with their tools, the Lembke cache may potentially serve as evidence of gendered duties among hunter-gatherer societies. In groups where there are no people specialized for tasks, there is cross cultural evidence that women assume the role of scraping and processing hides. If such roles are linked to gender, certain tools may also be able to be directly connected to one gender, further illuminating purposes of artifacts left behind.


  1. The Walthall article sounds interesting. I find it intriguing to see gendered duties beyond the usual men hunt, women/children gather in a nomadic, hunting and gathering society when normally these societies are much more egalitarian in duties. I do wonder what other duties men might have had beyond hunting if women processed the hides. One would think to equalize the duties a bit, that the men would have some other gender-specific roles to play. Does the article mention anything along those lines?

  2. I thought your chosen articles: Mobility and Hunter-Gatherer Toolkit Design: Analysis of a Dalton Lithic Cache and the article Poverty Point Period Quartz Crystal Drill Bits, Microliths, and Social Organization in the Yazoo Basin, Mississippi interesting in that it relates to my article: The Case for Archaic Period Mounds in Southeastern Louisiana by Rebecca Saunders in two ways. One way that this article relates to yours is that in my site Mound A contained some artifacts that consisted of a "large flint blade was recovered from near the top of the mound. Two tubular stone beads and one cicada (or owl0 bead, the latter broken during manufacture, were also found." (Saunders 121). Another that it relates that in the other mounds such as the LSU campus mound, Belmond mound, and The Monte Sano Bayou site contained different artifacts from midden that "consisted of a lithic scatter that included dart points." (Saunders 122).

    Saunders, Rebecca. The Case for Archaic Period Mounds in Southeastern Louisiana. Southeastern Archaeology, Vol. 13 No. 2: Archaic Mounds in the Southeast, pp 118-134. Allen Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40656501