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Mississippian Culture and Cahokian Identities as Considered Through Household Archaeology at Carson, a Monumental Center in North Mississippi

Abstract

The Carson site in northwest Mississippi is a monumental Mississippian center with evidence of large and small earthen mounds, an extensive palisaded village, and a bundle-burial mortuary complex. Over 70 houses have been uncovered from over a decade of salvage excavations at the site; these households bear evidence of local populations in the form of ceramics and stone tools, often belonging to the Parchman phase. In addition, numerous household structures that bear resemblance to Mississippian buildings from Cahokia and the American Bottom and that date to the Lohmann, Stirling, and Moorehead phases have also been discovered. The presence of these non-local structures and their material culture has provoked continued discussion on the nature of interactions between these two important centers. Herein, we offer a discussion on the nature of trade, diaspora, and Mississippian culture at Carson based on the analysis of material culture and architecture bearing Cahokian influences.

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Notes

  1. There are approximately 725 river kilometers between Cahokia and Carson; modern canoe expeditions can make this voyage in as little as eleven days, but generally average around twenty-five miles per day, making a twenty-plus day voyage more feasible (Layne Logue and John Ruskey, personal communication 2017).

  2. It should be noted that terms like “usual” and “significant” are qualitative qualifiers describing amounts of material and the style of material culture; the senior author of this paper uses these terms in the absence quantifiable data (left for later students to analyze), and rather, is choosing to emphasize qualitative terms based on almost ten years of excavation at Carson and fifty years of excavation experience in the Mississippi Delta.

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Acknowledgments

Greg Wilson started me down this road and catalyzed this paper inadvertently at SEAC several years ago. I might have quit if not for your encouragement, so thank you! Sarah Baires, Melissa Baltus, and Liz Watts have been incredible collaborators. Tim Pauketat, thank you for the guidance. The following all deserve recognition—Rachel Stout Evans, Chris Rodning, Marcello Canuto, Grant McCall, Jason Nesbitt, all of the students who worked on the Carson Mounds Archaeological Project (CMAP), Ben Davis, Molly Cloutier, Haley Holt Mehta, and Jesse Holt. Charles McNutt and Ryan Parish for allowing us to follow their example. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, and Rick Marksbury and the Tulane Summer School helped support this work. Thanks to the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, the NSF Arizona lab, and the UIUC Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory for processing my radiocarbon dates. Jessica Crawford and the Archaeological Conservancy are the best. Thanks to Jay K. Johnson as well.

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Mehta, J.M., Connaway, J.M. Mississippian Culture and Cahokian Identities as Considered Through Household Archaeology at Carson, a Monumental Center in North Mississippi. J Archaeol Method Theory 27, 28–53 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-019-09432-y

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Keywords

  • Diaspora
  • Cahokia
  • Carson
  • Household archaeology
  • Identity
  • Migration