Palisaded Enclosures and Political Complexity in the Eastern Woodlands of North America

Author(s): Jennifer Birch; Stefan Brannan

Year: 2015


Earthworks and enclosures have a long history of construction and use in the eastern Woodlands of North America. However, the development of palisaded enclosures around permanent settlements occurs concomitantly with the transition to maize horticulture, the transition to settled village life, and an increasing concern with boundary maintenance. In this paper, we employ data from Northeastern and Southeastern North America to examine how processes of enclosure transformed the relationships between people living within walled communities and those in the outside world. We argue that enclosed settlements developed initially as defensive communities. Subsequently, these groups developed more complex forms of social, political, and economic organization to meet the challenges of living together in circumscribed groups. These organizational structures differed in the Northeast and Southeast. Dynamic processes including climatic change, aggregation and dispersal, migration, alliance formation, and the emergence of regional polities and confederacies shaped the historically contingent biographies of enclosed places.

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Cite this Record

Palisaded Enclosures and Political Complexity in the Eastern Woodlands of North America. Stefan Brannan, Jennifer Birch. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395936)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;