Courtyards, Plazas, Paths: Empty Spaces Full of Meaning

Author(s): Erin Nelson

Year: 2015


In recent years, geophysical survey techniques have allowed archaeologists to identify subsurface cultural features—a dataset that has filled previously empty spaces on our site maps and made our interpretations of ancient landscapes all the richer. Significantly, geophysical datasets reveal not only features, but also the empty spaces in between those features. This paper explores the spaces between geophysical anomalies—the courtyards, plazas and paths that are common yet rarely investigated spatial components of Mississippi Period (AD 900-contact) sites in the southeastern United States. Plazas, courtyards and paths are spaces between built architecture that can have potentially different meanings and allow for different types of social interactions. I review some of these possibilities before turning to Parchman Place, a case study that illustrates the organizing yet flexible nature of such spaces. At Parchman Place and sites like it, it is the spaces between more visible archaeological features that structure daily interactions among people and that give us important clues about changing sociopolitical relationships in the past.

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Cite this Record

Courtyards, Plazas, Paths: Empty Spaces Full of Meaning. Erin Nelson. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397029)

Spatial Coverage

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