Monday, December 2, 2019

The Emergence of the Moundbuilders: The Archaeology of Tribal Societies in Southeastern Ohio

The Emergence of the Moundbuilders: The Archaeology of Tribal Societies in Southeastern Ohio – edited by Elliot M. Abrams and AnnCorinne Freter (Ohio University Press, 2005)

This one is a series of papers by multiple authors about pre-historic tribal societies that settled here in the greater Hocking Valley of Southeastern Ohio. 

The preface notes that:

“The indigenous societies of the Ohio Valley were part of an ancestry that extended back at least ten thousand years.”

While true, that does not mean there were not additional migrations into the area as possibly evidenced by suggested large population increases in certain time periods.

It is also noted that this collection is the first in this area to include GIS site analyses and radiocarbon accelerator mass spectroscopy (AMS) to date the first instances of maize agriculture and pottery use in the area.

The first paper is: The Archaeological Research History and Environmental Setting of the Hocking Valley by Abrams and Freter.. First evidence of human occupation of the area dates to the 9th millennium B.C.E. Mounds were built beginning in the first millennium B.C.E. and agriculture moved from local species to maize and beans by the end of the first millennium C.E. Most of the archaeologically discernible change in these societies occurs between 2500 B.C.E. and 1450 C.E:

“Those four millennia witnessed the establishment and expansion of tribal communities … “

The history of archaeology and especially that of the U.S. midcontinent moundbuilders, is fraught with wrong assumptions, pseudo-science, and hucksterism. Speculation in the 19th century abounded about the mounds being built by great lost societies, often of non-Native Americans and sometimes by extremely unlikely peoples like lost tribes of Israel. Often, it was put forth that the Native Americans were the ones who killed off the ancient societies. This was done often for political reasons to deny that Native Americans were capable of generating such societies, especially urban ones. The 19th century also saw quite a bit of excavation of these burial mounds and unfortunately many of the artifacts retrieved were lost. Other mounds and features were ploughed over.

Early surveys of the area included Squire and Davis’s 1848 Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. William Mills’ 1914 Archaeological Atlas of Ohio documented many of the works of southeastern Ohio. As archaeology gradually moved away from hucksterism and speculation into a more anthropological science, more was learned. The focus moved to include non-mound areas like inhabited rock shelters, flint quarries, and mass cooking sites. The 1989 publication of James Murphy’s An Archaeological History of the Hocking Valley provides a detailed account from a lead excavator at several local sites. Murphy noted that archaeology knowledge of the area is scant, especially in the Middle Woodland period. The Ohio University field archaeology program was started by Eliot Abrams in 1986 specifically to excavate habitation sites (rather than more commonly excavated mounds) in order to better understand cultures and tribal features and how they changed through time. I took a non-field class in Anthropological Archaeology there that very year.

Tribal society is defined here by anthropologists Service (1962) and Sahlins (1961, 1968) as “of the order of a large collection of bands, but it is not simply a collection of bands.” What distinguishes ‘tribe’ is its set of social identities and relationships with other tribes. Households, villages, subtribes, and regional tribal societies is the sequence from small to large. With the advent of agriculture came the ability to be more sedentary and build larger communities. 

Chronology starts with Early and Late Paleoindian from ~15000 to 8000 BC to Early, Middle, and Late Archaic from 8000 BC to 1500 BC to Early, Middle, and Late Woodland from 1500 BC to 700 AD to Late Prehistoric from 700 AD to 1450 AD to Protohistoric from 1450 AD to 1600 AD and finally to historic from 1600 AD to present. This chronology is based on Murphy’s 1989 work on the Hocking Valley. Many radiocarbon dates are cited in the papers in this current book so that long histories of site occupation, though probably not continuous in many cases, can be established. The authors also acknowledge the difficulty of archaeological analysis and tying it to culture due to scant data. There is little to no actual history known of these peoples. While there were some native bands known and considered in historical time (1600 and later) it is not known how connected those people were to previous inhabitants as migration due to local wars and resource availability was likely in the previous centuries and millennia.

There is much emphasis on the environmental and geological variability of the Hocking Valley, which includes several glacial terminuses that help shaped local landforms. The native peoples took advantage of some of these landforms. Terraces formed by such glacial terminuses, or glacial outwash soil deposits, were key places of mounds and habitation for moundbuilder societies. A prime example is that of The Plains, a large flattened terrace region just west of Athens. Ohio. The terraces occur between the floodplain of the Hocking River and the ridgetops, with total relief being about 400ft or so. Quite variable soil types occur in the area as a result. Clays for pottery, chert for tools, and floodplain soil for agriculture were available along the Hocking watershed. There are also what are called saltlicks, left by evaporated glacial outwash lakes, that drew animals and provided salt for food. The different physiographic zones are also home to somewhat differing fauna and flora, as well as soils. Climatic variability is also a feature now as it was in the past, with extended droughts not uncommon. Climatic variability also leads to ecological variability. For example, edible nut production (acorns, beech nuts, hickory nuts, and black walnuts) vary considerably according to climate. 

The second paper/chapter by Stump, Lein, Abrams, and Freter is a GIS analysis of settlement trends in the Archaic and Woodland Hocking Valley. This is mainly modern mapping of sites and settlement trends according to time period. Maps of sites are given for each time period and analyzed according to preferred physiographic province such as glaciated vs. unglaciated and stream valley vs. upland slope vs. ridge top. Settlement distribution shifts indicate a southward movement from glaciated to unglaciated areas through time. There was also a clear preference for terrace and stream valley locations as time progressed from Archaic to Woodland times, when upland slope and ridge top sites were used just as much. Early and Middle Woodland sites are somewhat more numerous than Late Archaic and those two are much more numerous than Middle Archaic sites. The Plains, interpreted as a ritual center, has a high site density.  Another interpretation is that sedentism increased through time, especially as agriculture increased. 

Paper/chapter 3: The Bremen Site: A Terminal Late Archaic Period Upland Occupation in Fairfield County, Ohio by Pecora and Burks focuses on the Bremen upland site in Fairfield County in the upper headlands part of the Hocking Valley. Radiocarbon dating of burnt nutshells in a pit containing pottery suggest that it is the oldest site in the Hocking Valley region with pottery. Upland is characterized as an oak-maple forest. Bottoms were rich in beech, maple, and black walnut. The authors mention Late Archaic/Early Woodland (3000-1000BCE) primary changes as including increased sedentism, burial ceremonialism, and a greater reliance on cultivated plants. They see the Late Archaic as the transition between previous hunter-gatherer lifestyles and future agricultural-based living. Seasonal mobility of encampments was common as was camping to exploit local resources, such as flint for arrowheads and tools or perhaps clay for pottery. Two phases of Late Archaic/Early Woodland were proposed for the mid-Ohio Valley: Maple Creek phase (1650-1250 BC) and the Cogswell phase (1250-750 BC). The Cogswell phase included different projectile points for hunting and the beginning evidence of ‘domesticated cultigens’ and using wild varieties of starchy seed plants such as knotweed, maygrass, goosefoot, and ragweed. 

The Bremen site was excavated in 2000 and 2001. Radiocarbon dates of charred material date from 2826 BC to 1315 BC. A midden, or kitchen trash heap, was defined. Pottery and projectile points were found. One groundstone artifact was recovered.  Postmolds, places where wooden posts once existed, were found. Analysis of raw materials can detect regional geological sources of flint found. Upper Mercer, Vanport (biggest exposure at Flint Ridge in central Ohio), and other sources were found here. There are known outcrops nearby (within 20km). Evidence of flint flaking for tool-making is abundant. Tools were likely partially processed from raw materials for transport. Botanical remains include burnt hickory and walnut charcoal. The site has been interpreted as a short-term residency site, possibly in autumn or winter based on burnt nut residues. 

Next is: The Walker Site: An Archaic/Woodland Hunting-Collecting Site in the Hocking Valley by Abrams and DeAloia, an analysis of the Walker Site in Jacksonville Quadrangle of western Athens County. This is also an upland site, located on a small flat ridge crest overlooking the Hocking River. Excavation work was done by Ohio University archaeological field school in 1998. This site was also determined to be seasonal or short-term, but its use ranged from 8000 BC to 400 BC. Many artifacts were recovered including projectile points of different styles and ages, one drill fragment, and one celt fragment. No pottery was found. The majority of fragments were made from the local Brush Creek chert. Fire-cracked rock was also found and interpreted as rock-lined campfires or open hearths. No midden pits or postmolds were found here, which suggest the site was not a residential basecamp. It was more likely a resource procurement site, although it is not clear what resources may have been procured here. Food, perhaps nuts, are one possibility. The authors note that while such temporary sites are rarely excavated, much can be learned and perhaps more such sites should be excavated. 

The next paper is titled, Late Archaic Community Aggregation and Feasting in the Hocking Valley, by Heyman, Abrams, and Freter. They state that habitation sites in the Late Archaic were from 2-4 families in size, so small and dispersed. People were nomadic and procured their resources seasonally, often, as suggested here, in the form of aggregation of the greater community which included feasting. Nut harvesting and smoking and salting of fish and meat are suggested with both likely in autumn to store food for winter. Such aggregation in larger numbers may have contributed to greater tribal solidarity and integration. Examined here specifically are sites along Sunday Creek and where it drains into the Hocking River near The Plains. The Plains mound complex is prominent. 

The authors think such sites as the Plains mound complex shows the beginnings in the area of aggregation and that such aggregation could also be used for ritual purposes, feasting, sharing, mound burial ceremonialism, and perhaps exchanging of gifts between bands. Episodic macro-bands thus likely formed. The County Home site at the confluence of Sunday Creek and the Hocking River reveals a site with large cooking features. Five large features were described as Late Archaic and Early Woodland communal roasting pits. The pits were lined with fire-cracked rock. Granitic and quartzite groundstones were also recovered from all five features, likely found already rounded in stream beds. Residues and fragments of bones, botanical materials, and clay (possibly to seal in moisture during cooking) were also recovered. These roasting pits were large, typically 2 meters by 1 meter in size. In one feature burnt tree branches were found between fire-cracked rocks indicating a method of achieving even heating. This could be similar to historical accounts of Plains Indians cooking methods. Meat was likely wrapped in leaves and clay. The authors think the actual feasting took place below the site on the floodplain where the rivers conjunct. A nearby natural salt lick and abundance of nut trees as mast could have been exploited as a place to hunt game and a salt source for preserving meat and fish. Data indicate that mound construction and horticulture began in the area during the first millennium BCE. There is evidence for population increase beginning around 1500 BCE. 

“…the data from the Hocking Valley indicate a greater degree and more formalized type of interaction among local communities beginning ca. 1500 B.C. than was experienced by previous generations.”

Next paper is Woodland Communities in the Hocking Valley by Crowell, Abrams, Freter, and Lein. Much change was happening in the first millennium BC in the region as more sedentism, pottery, more evidence of wild seed harvesting and domesticating of plants, and mound building began. These riverine societies of the Midwest ushered (according to Brown 1985) “the appearance of permanent habitations, food storage, domestication of plants, multiregional exchange of valuables, cemeteries, intragroup ranking of individuals, and the elaboration of art in a social context.”

Few habitation sites in the area have been excavated but two, the Boudinot 4 site and the Woodland component of the County Home site, have yielded significant data. Dating indicates both sites were occupied from the Late Archaic to the Middle Woodland, generally the last two millenia BC. The Boudinot 4 site is on a terrace. Excavation yielded 19 subsurface features, mainly cooking units, generic pits, and architectural posts. It was estimated that 10-20 people lived there. The County Home site yielded a 25 x 25 meter habitation area and a total of 78 features, including the midden and large roasting pits noted previously. 29 postmolds were interpreted so large wooden structures are implied. Rocks in the post holes were interpreted as chinking to help hold the posts. Charcoal at the base indicates the in-ground part of the posts were charred to reduce effects of weathering and rot as was common with Adena peoples and still practiced by some farmers. The authors interpreted five large buildings at the site. The elevated terraces were above any point of flooding but are generally rare, representing about 5% of the Hocking watershed land. The nearby salt licks provided salt for humans to preserve foods, and for potential game animals. However, there is no real evidence of permanent occupation, so likely habitation at these sites was likely seasonal and the population still relatively nomadic.

Local mounds were built by small groups of people and were not as labor intensive as might seem. Burials were typically at the base, with men, women, and children, as in other regional mounds. There are hundreds of small conical mounds in the Hocking Valley, often on ridgetops. Only a few of those hundreds of mounds have been dated with dates ranging from 440 BC to 280 BC. The authors also think the mounds possibly served as communication since “any mound was visible from any adjacent mound.” The authors think the people spent fall and spring at the terrace habitation sites, summer on the flood plains and wintered in rock shelters.

Archaeobotanical data from the Boudinot 4 site show that one species of squash was grown ca. 1092 BC, by ca. 400 BC chenopods, erect knotweed, and sumpweed were eaten, and by 200 BC maygrass was eaten. These species likely entered the diet as wild species but were gradually domesticated, basically grown in gardens. Data indicates hickory nuts were 95% of nuts collected in 800 BC but by 100 BC hazelnuts, black walnuts, and butternuts were added. Maygrass is not available in southern Ohio which suggests domestication with seeds from farther away. It was also a spring plant that could have fed in spring when food was generally scarce. Overall, the data suggest farming began to supplement hunting and gathering in the area around 500 BC. It is estimated that chenopodium was eaten in wild form from at least 1500 BC. It is suggested that an Early Woodland local community was 25-35 people in 4 or 5 households. Marriage may have been to people from other households which is common. Regional DNA evidence has shown that the Ohio River served as a boundary between genetically distinct marital populations.

Next paper is Woodland Ceremonialism in the Hocking Valley by Blazier, Freter, and Abrams. With increased sedentism and larger communities by 100 BC likely came new social developments. One may have been lineage affiliation as the authors suggest. The mound complex in The Plains, Ohio was built between 50 BC and 250 CE. Likely due to lack of water there was thought to be no actual habitation at The Plains earthworks but that the area was used for ceremonialism, specifically mortuary ceremonialism. Some of these mounds were excavated in the 1800’s and apparently much data was lost. The authors go into detail about excavation of one mound, indicating six stages of construction, with fire-crack rock indicating possible ritual burning. Skeleton remains found in mounds there indicate  similar numbers of males and females, which suggests an egalitarian society according to the authors. 

The size of the larger mounds at The Plains suggests many more people built them than built the much smaller ridgetop mounds of earlier times. There are also 9 earthwork circles from 100ft to 210ft in diameter. Many were plowed over but the Courtney Circle is still visible. Its ‘walls’ are about 10m thick and there is a 20m diameter rise in the center. It is estimated that the exterior walls were originally 7ft high. Around 50 BC it is estimated that there was long distance trading among Middle Woodland tribes as evidenced by copper artifacts from the Great Lakes, mica from Tennessee, and bear claws and teeth and obsidian from the Rocky Mountains being found in Ohio mounds. The age of The Plains mound complex is similar to other mound complexes in Ohio and suggests a regional mortuary ceremonialism had developed. New social and political structures are also inferred. 

Evidence suggests that bodies of the honored individuals interred in the mounds may have previously been subjected to excarnation and cremation before internment. Bones of bear, eagle, and wolf were also recovered from the mounds. A shamanistic or animistic worldview is assumed. The burial pattern of the Armitage Mound is that of a 50-60 year-old man’s full skeleton surrounded by 15 cremated skeletons wrapped in bark. The authors think that individual mounds may have represented family lineages but that is speculative. In sum they note:

“The Plains was largely an unoccupied ritual center serving a dispersed population of small horticultural/hunting and gathering communities.”

They think this development from 50BC to 250 CE represents the largest regional extent of political inclusiveness in the greater Hocking Valley tribal societies.

Next is The Swinehart Village Site: A Late Woodland Village in the Upper Hocking Valley by Schweikart. This site is in eastern Fairfield County south of Buckeye Lake. The site is on an upland terrace on a bluff. This is characteristic of many sites in the Ohio area dating from 250 CE to 400 CE. Evidence of occupation is from Early Archaic through Woodland but most recovered materials date from 300-800 CE. Blades of high-quality Flint Ridge/Vanport flint were found as well as Chilton-style gorgets. This is the only enclosed village in the Hocking Valley area and suggests that peoples north of Hocking Hills area may have been distinct from those south. The author sees two main reasons for development of such upland terrace sites during this time period: to maximize available resources and for defense. The defensive attribution is supported by a good surrounding view of the lower lands. There is one skeleton in Columbus, Ohio from this late Middle Woodland period that exhibits a lethal wound from a projectile. Horticultural fields were likely developed on the adjacent lowlands. The author speculates that since these defensive sites coincide with the last of the mound-building in the area that something happened to prevent the community aggregation that was previously more common.

Next is The Allen Site: A Late Prehistoric Community in the Hocking River Valley by Abrams, Bergman, and Miller. There are several known Late Woodland and Late Prehistoric (700-1300 CE) villages in the central Hocking Valley area. The Allen site was excavated in the 1990’s. Dates of occupation of the site were estimated at 600-1310 CE. Pottery types found were also consistent with dating. Projectile points found reach back to the Archaic but with most being Late Woodland to Late Prehistoric. 

The many architectural postholes found indicate about 5-8 buildings occupied at a time at the Allen 1 site and 4 or 5 houses at the Allen 2 site (max of 13 houses). This is consistent with other Fort Ancient time period hamlets that contained from 6 to 10 structures. Several indoor hearth areas were identified. Position of posts indicate the houses were rectangular. Population size is estimated at between 25 and 90 people, slightly larger but roughly consistent with the 24-44 people estimated for other Fort Ancient aged sites. The site yielded considerably less pottery sherds than similar aged site near or far. Even rockshelter sites have yielded more pottery. The authors note that one local researcher, Prufer 1967, remarked that “a distinctive, local Woodland pottery complex which appears during Adena times, remains essentially intact … into Late Woodland times.” One possible sherd of that type was found at the Allen site. The other types were likely manufactured onsite as one area was interpreted as a pottery firing pit. This was further away from the houses, suggesting that the smoke from firing was kept away. 

Most of the chert found was the local Brush Creek variety with lesser amounts of Upper Mercer/Zaleski flint that outcrops further away and even lesser amounts of Vanport flint which is even more distant. The authors go into detail about debitage (mostly flaked chert) and archaeological interpretation of lithic materials. The large amount of debitage recovered indicates that tool and projectile point making was a common activity at the site. They suggest the western area of the site was mainly used for toolmaking as most debitage was found there. Other flint tool types found were drills, scrapers, and one possible hoe blade.  They also go into detail about projectile points with several different types of different vintage but most being of the Prehistoric fine triangular type. They think that lithics were transported from their sites of origin partially worked then finished at the home site. 12 cooking features were identified of different sizes. One was significantly larger and further away indicating a possible communal feasting cooking pit. One possible waste pit was found. Their interpretations fit with other interpretations of similar sites of similar age.

Next is Late Prehistoric Agriculture and Land Use in the Hocking Valley by Wymer. By 700 CE the rich fertile soils along the Hocking River floodplain were being tapped for growing crops. It was at this time that maize agriculture took off in this area. Previous to this it was likely that this plant of tropical origin was genetically acclimating to temperate climates and through time working its way north. Paleobotanical samples were obtained from the Allen site, mentioned in the previous paper. These some 26 specimens were examined for composition and relative density and ubiquity. Wood charcoal, nutshell, nutmeat, maize, and seeds were the categories recovered in flotation samples. Nutshells were the most ubiquitous material but maize and seeds were nearly as much in terms of density. 7 fragments of maize were recovered, including an entire intact kernel which was dated at 689 CE. Wood charcoal fragments were mostly oak (59%), both white and red varieties, along with hickory, beech, ash, and buckeye. Nutshell fragments were hickory, black walnut, butternut, and acorn. Seeds were of raspberry and bedstraw. Macrobotanical samples include oak (both groups), hickory, walnut, maple, ash, elm, chestnut, and possible black cherry. By weight, oak and hickory comprised 85% of overall wood samples. These two woods are probably the best two fire woods growing in the area so that was likely their main use. Maize was found at other sites of the same age nearby. The author notes that the absence of more seed material such as fragments of Eastern Agricultural Complex (EAC) crops like squash, chenopodium, maygrass, goosefoot, and ragweed is quite anomalous as most similar sites have some of these. She also notes that the earliest occurrence of maize in the regional area is material from West Virginia dated to 425 CE. And she notes that there is no evidence that the Hocking Valley area communities aggregated to large nucleated communities as in the Fort Ancient sites during the 800-1000 CE period. 

Next is The Impact of Maize on Settlement Patterns in the Hocking Valley by Wakeman. First the author notes that maize agriculture began in the region by just before 700 CE as evidenced by the previous paper and that maize agriculture in this area required growing on the rich fertile floodplains (this is still generally true today with “corn bottoms” being the most productive plots). Of course, there were other reasons to frequent floodplains such as drinking water availability and fish and other aquatic food. He also notes that the study area of the Hocking Valley is unique in that it contains three distinct physiographic provinces: flat glaciated till plains in the north, glaciated Allegheny Plateau to the west and unglaciated Allegheny Plateau to the southeast. This topography was sculpted in the Pleistocene era about 1.8 million years ago. The different glacial terminuses in the area make for an unusually wide variety of soil types. The author notes that settlement patterns after maize agriculture became widely adopted tended to follow the most fertile soils, which could be quite small in areal extent. Moraine, floodplain, and terrace sites represented 78% of applicable sites. Data suggest that Late Woodland societies continued into Prehistoric times in the lower Hocking Valley but that new communities created ca. 1000 CE were restricted to the upper Hocking Valley to the northwest.

The final paper in the book is a long overview titled: Tribal Societies in the Hocking Valley by Abrams and Freter. They note the evolution of the development of archaeological goals in the region which is now more focused on trying to understand how these communities lived. They suggest that alliances, perhaps based on kinship, led to larger and more inclusive communities. Evidence of community feasting suggests different bands coming together likely on seasonal occasions to exploit and process food resources communally. Before horticulture there was likely nut processing and game processing. Mounds were likely another feature of smaller bands forming into regional tribes. Of course, the large mounds were only built in this area in about a 300-year period. With the observation that adjacent mounds were often visible from other mounds suggests that there was some regional planning. Horticultural pastimes like growing chenopodiums in gardens likely were learned from other nearby groups and adopted. Ceramics were likely used before horticulture was practiced, for carrying nuts and seeds.

The authors offer a new periodization in the Hocking Valley beginning with the Period of Intensive Hunting (3000-1500 BC). This corresponds to the Late Archaic and is characterized by gradually increasing rainfall which led to more production from food plants and game. More abundant food also likely increased sedentism and decreased nomadism. 

Next is the Period of Protohorticultural Communities (1500-500 BC). The authors think this period may have been a time of slow or no population growth due to less rainfall. Less available drinking water due to less rain in uplands likely led to more floodplain settlement as well. Evidence of communal feasting begins ca. 1500 BC. Fall collection of nuts and seeds was possibly made more efficient as a result off less availability due to less rainfall. More people meant more local nuts would be used up faster and so available seeds may have become more utilized. Newley cleared and/or burnt areas provided ideal spots for some of the EAC plants like chenopodiums. These plants provide a manageable supplement via gardening for a hunter-gatherer society. Now it was more a hunter-gatherer society that practiced seasonal sedentism. Small burial mounds first appear during this time period. Larger mounds began prior to 500 BC in regionally areas outside the Hocking Valley. The authors suggest that the mounds may have also provided a tribal unification mechanism to keep nearby tribes from taking their lands and resources. They are also indicative of shared ritualism, or a cultural-specific form of animism. The authors note that the Hocking Valley and nearby Muskingum River Valley have many of these small conical ridgetop mounds built beginning ca. 500 BC, but the Scioto River Valley does not. This could reflect the topography where the Hocking and Muskingum valleys are more narrow with less floodplain, only a few terraces, and steeper slopes. 

Third is the Period of Tribal Integration (50 BC-250 CE). The beginnings of larger and more mounds begins at this time. The bigger mounds such as the ones at The Plains required more labor and more people to build and it seems to have been a complex of mortuary cult ceremonialism. This general period has been termed as the Hopewell civilization, although the civilization is no doubt the same people as the Adena. People apparently used to think they were different peoples altogether and there is some possibility that the increase in population came about due to migration of other peoples into the area, however, there is no direct evidence of this. The greater Hocking Valley is part of what has been termed the Hopewell Interaction Sphere, based on the presence of copper and obsidian arriving by trade from long-distance. Mounds may have also delineated family lineage association with the land, or land ownership, a concept generally not adopted by historical Native Americans.

Next is The Period of Regional Tribal Fragmentation (250-500 CE). This period is when construction of burial mounds ceased throughout the Ohio Valley. Unfortunately, few artifacts from this period have been found in the area. Populations in the Scioto and Licking valleys are documented archaeologically to have continued, though on a smaller scale. The question is whether there was abandonment of habitation sites during this period and why. 

The last is the Period of Agricultural Tribal Communities (500-1450? CE). During this period there was increasing reliance on maize agriculture with community sizes ranging from 35 to 80 people. Villages were situated near good bottom land. Depletion of soils was likely, although some fallowing of good land was also likely eventually practiced. Soil depletion likely caused communities to move. Skeletal analysis from southwestern Ohio indicates that maize was up to 65% of the diet for pre-historic societies there. Around 1450 CE the Hocking Valley along with other nearby riverine communities seems to have been abandoned. Drought may have been a factor as well as the benefits of moving closer to the Ohio River with its larger swathes of fertile bottom land. Defensive earthworks appear early in this time period ca. 600 CE. The authors suggest that food surpluses enabled the more organized tribal integration period from 50BC to 250 CE and lack of such surpluses led to its ending. They also suggest that maize agriculture was difficult early in this area due to climatic and seasonal variability so even with it dominating the diet there were not significant surpluses.  They note a few “stages” od sedentism: gardening of local crops, membership in regional tribal alliances, and adoption of maize agriculture as a staple crop. 

The author recommendations for future research in the area include more intensive excavation, especially more rockshelter excavation as only one of several known has been extensively excavated. More excavation of extraction sites is also recommended. Some parts of the Hocking Valley area such as Federal Creek have not even been surveyed well for sites. They note again the biggest enigmas are the postulated abandonment period (250-500 CE) as well as the postulated abandonment period after 1450 CE. 

Overall, this is a great book not only for those interested in the area but those interested in Native American history. It is also a great book that details archaeological methodologies as well as comparison to various archaeological theories and classifications based on other societies.

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