Structure and Regional Diversity of the Meadowood Interaction Sphere (Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan)

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9780915703746: Structure and Regional Diversity of the Meadowood Interaction Sphere (Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan)
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This monograph offers the first major synthesis of the Meadowood phenomenon, one of the earliest and largest interaction spheres in northeastern North America. Stretching over 1.5 million sq km, this social network is recognized by common burial practices and the widespread distribution of carefully thinned bifaces, finely crafted polished objects, native copper and marine shell items, probably together with hides, furs, and crude pottery (likely full of specialty foods such as fatty meats and fish oils). The richly documented analyses contained in this monograph take the staid archaeological reports of previous years, and, together with unpublished data and reanalysis of curated material, breathe social and political life into the remains of this Early Woodland phenomenon (3000 2400 BP).

The main objectives of this study are to identify the factors involved in the emergence of the Meadowood Interaction Sphere, define its structure, and understand the social dynamics behind its maintenance and transformation. Building upon the assumption that fundamentally different motivations for participating in a large-scale network of interactions resulted in distinct archaeological signatures, explicit material correlates are proposed to assess the relative importance of ritual, economic, and sociopolitical factors in the development of the Meadowood phenomenon. The vast array of data presented in this work, including a detailed patterning of sites and trade goods across the Northeast, suggests that this social network was organized primary by and for high-ranking individuals rather than exclusively for cult purposes or to adapt to subsistence vicissitudes. Trade fairs are proposed as a mechanism for better understanding hunter-fisher-gatherers exchange behavior in Early Woodland times. Such episodic ritual or trade gatherings, predicated on abundant production of fish and other resources, would have facilitated the movement of prestige items in the context of increasing social complexity. Trade fairs were also places for burial of high-ranking individuals, funerary feasts, and a range of activities reinforcing intergroup integration. In sum, this research highlights the important relationship, under certain ecological conditions, between the creation of interaction spheres, the development of prestige technologies, and the emergence of socioeconomic inequalities.

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