SEAC Paper/Poster Roll Call

Once again, a wonderfully engaging and productive SEAC has come and gone and hopefully that post-conference excitement and inspiration has not faded too quickly.  Let us know which papers/posters/sessions stood out to you and maybe how you plan to incorporate those ideas into your own work.  What were your thoughts on the Plenary Session “Taking Stock of Social Theory in Southeastern Archaeology”?

Also, congratulations to Dana Bardolph who won this years’ Student Paper Prize and to our very own Alice Wright who brought home the second place prize!



4 comments on “SEAC Paper/Poster Roll Call

  1. Alice Wright says:

    They weren’t limited to a single poster or paper session, but in general, I was blown away by the reports of recent geophysical applications across the Southeast. These large scale and more targeted surveys are revolutionizing the sorts of questions we can ask and answer using the archaeological record, not to mention radically changing our perspectives of important sites. For example, I am still digesting the map of Moundville that Jeremy Davis and John Blitz produced after magnetometer survey. I can’t remember exactly, but there was some staggering figure like 500 house structures, including a plaza full of buildings. Obviously, groundtruthing (which is ongoing! check out Jeremy’s blog!) and dating these newly discovered anomalies is necessary to determine what/what points in time they represent, but now that we at least know where they are, I can imagine some really exciting explorations of synchronic site layouts and diachronic life histories of sites.

    • Meg says:

      You’re right! I think the Southeast is definitely coming into it’s own in dealing with really THINKING about Geophys data. Victor’s session on the Spaces In Between really made us all focus on the range of things that this data can tell us– yay for it potentially getting published in the Journal of Archaeological Prospection just after a themed issue on British applications! Go Southeast!

  2. David Cranford says:

    I saw a great paper by John Worth in the “Bridging History and Prehistory” symposium (among the many others in the session). His paper laid the general framework for the session and I felt succinctly identified many of the issues and pitfalls that folks working in this period face. Specifically, he pointed out the problematic tendency or inclination to ascribe historically defined ethnic identities to particular geographically or temporally patterned ceramic traditions. I liked his use of “communities of practice” (i.e., ceramics) vs “communities of identity” (i.e., ‘ethnies’) and argued that correspondence between the two would not be universal and therefore should not be assumed. It definitely got me thinking about how I would problematize the different ways social groups construct and project identities and their intersections with the material record.

    I was also struck by how often I heard discussions of agency, structure, and history, and not just during the plenary session. Cool stuff. Good to think.

  3. Meg says:

    An interesting pattern struck me while sitting in the Ritual Deposition session that Corin Purcell and Brett Giles organized. Erin Nelson and I had presented a paper outlining post ritual at the Late Woodland Feltus Mounds site in southwestern Mississippi. In our conclusion we observed that it is common in the literature to assume that mounds were one of the things that imbued a location with power– i.e. they were built at a site and then that site became an important place on the landscape. We then argued (using the data from Feltus) that in this case, the mounds came at the END of a ritual process, marking/memorializing a place that was already important, and potentially even providing ritual closure to the events that took place there.

    A few papers before ours, Berle Clay presented a paper focusing on ritual uses of the dead in Ohio Valley Middle Woodland sites. In his conclusion, he made an observation that seemed to run counter to what Erin I observed about what archaeologists commonly assume about mounds. He argued that we OFTEN think of mounds as memorializing places, but instead need to begin to think of them as looking forward, perhaps as symbols or reminders that future social get togethers will take place.

    Overall, I understood Berle’s point, and most certainly agreed with the idea that mounds could serve this function. But for me, two questions came out of this seeming disagreement between Erin’s and my reading of the literature vs. Berle’s. (1) Were we reading different literature when making our assessments or just reading the same literature in different ways? and (2) How could I delve deeper into this question of whether southeastern mounds are looking backwards and referencing the past or looking forwards and referencing the future? Here are the brief answers I have come up with (though, I welcome your opinions so comment and let me know what you think)!

    1) I think we might be reading different literature. Berle, by studying the Middle Woodland, was focusing largely on burial mounds. Erin and I, studying the Coles Creek period, were focusing largely on platform mounds. Perhaps archaeologists often think of burial mounds as referencing the past due to the inclusion of the dead and platform mounds as referencing the future due to the assumption that they are associated with the sociopolitical power.

    2) This leads logically to the idea that it might open our eyes if we spend some time really delving into what the other literature has to say– people studying burial mounds could really look into how people interpret platform mounds and vice versa! For me, this is a particularly interesting statement because I have both platform mounds and burial mounds at Feltus (sometimes, they are one and the same). Perhaps this means that I need to think of these mounds as clearly serving both functions… for example, Mound D at Feltus may have served to ritually END an event occurring in the south end of the plaza at Feltus by capping and thus closing ritual portals that were opened during the setting of posts (see Erin’s and my paper for the full argument) Likewise, by including the remains of the dead in the construction of the mound itself, the people building it might be reminding themselves and others that see the mound that this ritual cycle will begin again at some point when people re-gather at Feltus. I really like this explanation because it leads directly to the type of repeated opening and closing of the ritual cycle that we think we see at Feltus.

    I really look forward to thinking about this more and discussing it with Berle and others out there who have an opinion!

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