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QUESTIONING COMPLEXITY: THE PREHISTORIC HUNTER-GATHERERS OF SAPELO ISLAND, GEORGIA

Part of the Sapelo Island project

Author(s): Victor D. Thompson

Year: 2006

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Summary

In this dissertation, I examine trajectories of cultural evolution among complex

hunter-gatherers and middle range societies. Broadly, I consider the theoretical issues

related to these two areas of study and how we should conceptualize the study of sociocultural

evolution in societies organized at this scale. I apply these ideas to the study of

the prehistoric hunter-gatherers who occupied Sapelo Island, Georgia, U. S. A.

Specifically, I examine the Archaic period (4200 – 3000 B. P.) occupation of the Sapelo

Shell Ring complex, located on the western side of the island. In particular, I study issues

of sedentism, settlement aggregation, mound construction, and the emergence of social

inequality as they relate to shell rings in the southeastern United States, as well as other

areas of the world. One of the central problems for studying these sites is whether shell

rings form by gradual accumulation or by intentional construction and the concomitant

social formations associated with these two different behaviors. Using geophysical

survey, artifact distributions, and radiocarbon dating, I examine the use and nature of

space at the site as well as site formation processes. I present the results of both the

growth band analysis on clams and the isotopic analysis on clams and oysters from the

site in order to address season of occupation. In addition to this new data, a reanalysis of

previous excavations is presented. Combined, these data lend important insights into

different dimensions of socio-political complexity. Specifically, these data suggest that

the Sapelo Shell Ring complex population was relatively large for its time. It addition, it

seems that at least some portion of the population occupied the site year-round. Despite

it large population size and reduced mobility the occupants of the site maintained at least

some degree of egalitarian social relations.


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QUESTIONING COMPLEXITY: THE PREHISTORIC HUNTER-GATHERERS OF SAPELO ISLAND, GEORGIA. Victor D. Thompson. 2006 ( tDAR id: 365501) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8FN1532


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -81.312; min lat: 31.374 ; max long: -81.151; max lat: 31.564 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Rachel Black


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Contact(s): Rachel Black

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America