Labor, Materials, and Ritual Knowledge: Erecting and Erasing Middle Woodland Enclosures in Southern Appalachia

Author(s): Alice Wright

Year: 2015


Middle Woodland geometric enclosures are among the most complex earthen monuments ever built in Eastern North America. Well-known 19th century maps have long provided archaeologists with a view of their shape, size, and scope, in their final forms. However, because relatively few of these enclosures have been systematically excavated, their early life histories and the ways they may have evolved through time remain enigmatic. In this paper, I seek to document a more complete biography of enclosure by combining the results of geophysical survey and excavation of a pair of small geometric enclosures at the Garden Creek site in western North Carolina. There, in the first century AD, raw materials, human labor, and specialized ritual knowledge were marshalled at different stages of these enclosures’ life histories, from the earliest construction of ditches and possible embankments, to the emplacement of an associated post alignment, to the eventual dismantling of the earthwork and posts and the effective erasure of the monument from the landscape. Specifically, I consider the labor energetics of earth-moving and post-setting alongside the precise layout and possible astronomical alignments of the enclosures themselves to show the diverse ways in which Middle Woodland architects shaped these biographies of enclosure.

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Cite this Record

Labor, Materials, and Ritual Knowledge: Erecting and Erasing Middle Woodland Enclosures in Southern Appalachia. Alice Wright. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395937)


Spatial Coverage

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