Lives as Lived in the Archaic: A Human Agency Perspective

Author(s): John Cross

Year: 2015


Archaeological fieldwork in the Northeast over the last 20 years has resulted in a significant increase in the number of known pre-Contact sites with radiocarbon-dated components; we no longer speculate on whether or not people occupied the region during the Early and Middle Archaic periods. However, the emphasis has largely been on fitting new data into an existing framework of anthropological and evolutionary generality, rather than on exploring the historical specificity of the archaeological record. In an effort to re-cast the discussion, I draw on insights from human agency to frame research questions that are appropriate for the social, spatial, and temporal scales at which people lived their lives in the past. Excavations at the multicomponent Simpson-Stewart site in Maine illustrate several promising avenues for research and also examples of the challenges and biases introduced by preservation, field methods, and in the ways in which variation in the archaeological record has been aggregated into broad-scale units of time, space, and culture. Future syntheses of the Archaic Period in the Northeast will necessarily involve a critical re-examination of the assumptions that underlie the culture history that we think we know, and a recognition of the historically-contingent nature of the archaeological record.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Lives as Lived in the Archaic: A Human Agency Perspective. John Cross. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396492)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;