River Basin Surveys Papers, No. 39: An Interpretation of Mandan Culture History

Author(s): W. Raymond Wood

Editor(s): Robert L. Stephenson

Year: 1967


This study presents the results of a field excavation and subsequent research project which investigated the major hypothesis that Mandan Indian culture emerged about A.D. 1500 under the impact of trade and contact with semisedentary village peoples from the Central Plains, and with adjacent pedestrian nomads. The research began with an intensive analysis of the material from the

Huff Site (32M011) in the upper Middle Missouri area. Huff is a prehistoric Indian site enclosed by a rectangular fortification ditch, earthwork, and bastioned palisade. These defenses enclose a village of 103 long-rectangular and four-post houses ruined in rows parallel to the river, with the entrances facing away from the river. In the village center a large long-rectangular structure facing an open plaza is identified as the village ceremonial lodge. Huff is named as the type site of the Huff Focus, which includes several as yet unexcavated and tentatively identified components.

The village has been dated by tree rings between A.D. 1485 and 1543, a median date of A.D. 1500 for the occupation being acceptable pending additional dating.1 The site is regarded as culturally intermediate between components of the Thomas Riggs Focus and sites of the protohistoric Mandan. The four-post house at Huff may represent one of the first stages in the shift from the older long-rectangular houses to the circular, four-post earth lodge of the historic period. Huff pottery approaches the types in the historic Mandan sites, but a number of stylistic changes still separate it from Mandan pottery.

The differences which place Huff apart from Thomas Riggs Focus sites are suspected to derive from down the Missouri River from sites affiliated with the La Roche Focus. The four-post house and several alien rim sherds are believed to be innovations deriving either from this source or one much like it. The unique fortification system at Huff is felt to derive from sit-es along the Missouri River to the south, below Pierre; there is no compelling reason to derive it overland from such Middle Mississippian sources in the Mississippi Valley as Aztalan.

Cite this Record

River Basin Surveys Papers, No. 39: An Interpretation of Mandan Culture History. W. Raymond Wood, Robert L. Stephenson. 1967 ( tDAR id: 376072) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8V988XG

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1500 to 1800

Spatial Coverage

min long: -101.338; min lat: 45.645 ; max long: -100.02; max lat: 46.619 ;

Record Identifiers

NADB Citation ID(s): 000000134447; 000000163641

NADB Document ID(s): 5190975; 4054817

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