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GIS as Method or Theory: The Settlement Ecology of Middle-Range Societies in Southeastern North America, AD 1000-1600

Author(s): Eric Jones

Year: 2016

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In this paper, I explore the relationship between method and theory in spatial archaeology that employs Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I do this through an examination of the settlement ecology of societies of varying sociopolitical complexity in the Southeastern United States. I use GIS to estimate past environments and landscapes and record attributes of settlement sites, their catchments, and surrounding areas, which I then analyze using spatial statistical methods. Comparisons of different sets of sites and different landscapes around them show hierarchical Mississippian and egalitarian Piedmont Village Tradition (PVT) communities had different settlement strategies and occupied different environments. These patterns suggest certain environments were more conducive to the appearance and persistence of sociopolitical complexity. This interpretation has a cultural ecological ring to it. However, a complete explanation requires a combination of cultural, behavioral, and historical ecological theory, especially when we account for the appearance of Mississippian traits on a small number of later PVT sites. This case study offers an opportunity to examine the role of GIS in the entire research process. Additionally, it provides a basis for a discussion of the role of GIS in the past, present, and future development of archaeological methods and theory.

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GIS as Method or Theory: The Settlement Ecology of Middle-Range Societies in Southeastern North America, AD 1000-1600. Eric Jones. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403463)


Spatial Coverage

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

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America