Retrospective and Looking Forward

Our summer work is about a month behind us now and I’d like to give a wrap-up and a glimpse of things to come. But, first things first, a big THANK YOU to my fantastic field crew, especially the volunteers who dedicated their entire summer vacation to the project. I’m sure they can think of many more relaxing things that they could have been doing: Moundville was hot and alternately wet and dry; the ants were out in force; and we never did find another Duck Bowl. Despite these hardships, we had a lot of fun and the project simply could not have happened without this crew.

The excavations were a complete success. We obtained the information we needed to confidently interpret different types of magnetic anomalies and a map of Moundville showing the majority of its buried structures is forthcoming. We also recovered the right kinds of information – decorated ceramics and carbon samples – to date the ancient buildings we uncovered. Stratigraphic profiles shed light on the construction and occupation of the plaza and laboratory analysis of soil samples will add additional resolution.

The word “archaeology” typically conjures up images of dusty crews meticulously picking through the dirt in search of artifacts and, indeed, that is a big part of what archaeologists do. However, it’s often estimated that fieldwork constitutes only about 10% of an archaeological project; it just happens to be the most visible part. The discoveries do not cease once archaeologists head indoors, but continue in the lab as our data are organized, refined and discussed with others, integrated into and contrasted with existing data, and presented with conclusions to the public via talks, reports, articles, and books. It’s a lengthy but rewarding process that this blog will chronicle from here on out. Join me! 

I’ll be summarizing our preliminary results in two presentations at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana six weeks from now (November 7-10). Here are the abstracts:

 Landscape Archaeogeophysics at Moundville

Jera R. Davis and John H. Blitz

The recent magnetometer survey of Moundville encompassed 43 hectares – approximately 60% of the site – including the entire plaza and most mound summits. This poster interprets these data in light of excavations designed to correlate magnetic anomaly types with different kinds of architectural features. The results highlight many previously unknown aspects of the content and spatial organization of the Moundville landscape, particularly in regards to arrangements of domestic and nondomestic space and archaeological features in the plaza area.

 

On Common Ground: Memory, Identity, and the Remaking of Communal Tradition at Early Moundville

Jera R. Davis

Moundville’s vast plaza redefined and ramped up public activity at a critical moment in the crystallization of a new sociopolitical order. Its construction obscured many reference points of an earlier, more spatially segmented, communal tradition, as the remains of former gathering places were either buried beneath plaza fills or obliterated as their locations were leveled. In doing so, it affected a higher order communalism grounded in a reimagined past. This paper uses new geophysical and archaeological data to identify shifts in early Moundville’s communal landscape and address the emergence of a “Moundville” identity.

Keep an eye on the blog. I’ll post the presentations here so you don’t have to actually be at the conference to see/hear them!

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