The Eastern Woodlands, Household Archaeology, and the Internet

Town of Pomeiooc, Outer Banks, North Carolina. John White, 1585.

Town of Pomeiooc, Outer Banks, North Carolina. John White, 1585.

Public service announcement! Friend, colleague, and all-around rad dude Dr. Andy White has a gift for us. Today, his Eastern Woodlands Household Archaeological Data Project went live on the interwebs, and anyone interested in the social dynamics of indigenous southeastern/midwestern/northeastern societies should take notice. On this website, Andy has made available data on prehistoric residential structures that he originally assembled for a great paper* in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Much of this information comes from the deep, dark recesses of the grey literature; the point of the website is to make available these otherwise elusive datasets and thus allow researchers to ask and investigate a diversity of questions related to household archaeology.

This is what the internet is for, people!** Dissemination! Collaboration! All that good stuff. If household archaeology is your bag, I encourage you to check the site out, and contact Andy (aawhite@umich.edu) if you’ve got questions. Importantly, he is asking that interested folks submit relevant information, references, or datasets on prehistoric households as they make themselves known. Got a residential structure? Let him know!

In the meantime, what sorts of issues would you try and tackle with this database? As a Middle Woodland specialist, my knee jerk reaction is that datasets like this demand that we confront a longstanding research bias focused on mounds and earthworks and start exploring the everyday lives of the people who built them. This is not a revolutionary idea by a long shot, but as Darlene Applegate argued in a recent chapter on the Early-Middle Woodland domestic landscape of Kentucky, this line of inquiry has been hampered by the fact that many archaeologists don’t realize that there’s a decent domestic/residential archaeological record to work with. Well, be hampered no more, folks. The information is there, as long as Andy and future collaborators are willing and able to exhume it from the grey literature. Looking forward to seeing where this project goes…

 

*White, Andrew A.  2013.  Subsistence Economics, Family Size, and the Emergence of Social Complexity in Hunter-Gatherer Systems in Eastern North America.  Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32:133-163.

**Obviously, the internet is also for this.

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6 comments on “The Eastern Woodlands, Household Archaeology, and the Internet

  1. victoriagd says:

    So awesome! I can’t wait to spend so time with this new project and see what I can learn.

    You what they say about big data… 🙂

  2. dover1952 says:

    Well, okay. I’ll bite first. It looks like a really nice tool. I am almost always impressed when someone takes the time necessary to assemble something like this and then makes it available for use by other people.

    I have a question too. Back in the Edsel Age, which i can still remember, there was a great deal of curiosity as to why certain later hunter-gather groups and Woodland Period horticulturalists preferred round houses. Then, apparently for some reason that was unknown back then, full-blown maize agriculture shows up and houses are suddenly square or rectangular.

    I know that is probably terribly elementary to some of you by now, but I lost track of the issue over the past several decades. How has thinking evolved on that subject, and what is the current thinking on that subject? Thanks!!!

  3. Turck says:

    This is similar to the database that Ben Steere created for his dissertation work. The difference is that Ben’s study was restricted to sites in the southeast, and from the Woodland through Historic periods. (Or, I think that’s the case- does anybody know if Ben included Archaic period structures in his database as well?)

  4. Andy White says:

    That’s a great tip – I just checked out Ben Steere’s webpage. I’ll be diving into that dissertation just as soon as I get caught up consolidating the data I already have.

  5. Andy White says:

    Basic data from Ben Steere’s dissertation . . . now incorporated:

    http://www.householdarchaeology.org/march-2014.html

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