Confronting Myths of Isolation in Pre-Columbian Appalachia

Author(s): Alice Wright; Colin Quinn

Year: 2018


In recent decades, ethnographers, historians, and historical archaeologists have refuted popular myths about southern Appalachia that characterize the region as an isolated geographic periphery and, by extension, a cultural backwater. However, these perceptions continue to color interpretations of Appalachia’s deeper past, despite the region’s long tradition of rigorous archaeological research. Some scholars have suggested that pre-Columbian Appalachia has remained peripheral in archaeological discourse because it comprised the geographic edge of different cultural expressions (e.g., Mississippian, Morrow Mountain) or interaction spheres. In this paper, we argue that Appalachia’s recurring position as a cultural boundary renders it uniquely suited for studying pre-Columbian interaction and connectivity. Drawing on spatial and contextual data from the New River headwaters of northwestern North Carolina, we attempt to reframe the southern Appalachians as socially and symbolically central to Woodland period events and histories, and we propose new lines of archaeological research to further interrogate erroneous impressions of the region’s inaccessibility, isolation, and cultural inertia.

Cite this Record

Confronting Myths of Isolation in Pre-Columbian Appalachia. Alice Wright, Colin Quinn. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444518)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.735; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -73.389; max lat: 39.572 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21456