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Foraging and Farming in the Eastern Woodlands.



This volume originated from papers presented in two 1988 symposia at the annual meetings of the Society for American Archaeology The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) is the largest organization of professional archaeologists of the Americas in the world. The Society was founded in 1934 and today has over 7000 members.  and the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, and later combined and edited by Margaret Scarry. The contributors represent some of the leading scholars in archaeobotany in the eastern United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . Each of the contributions is solid and well written. Numerous accompanying tables and figures provide important raw data which are integrated into the chapter discussion. Together, these collected chapters provide a good cross-section of the state of contemporary palaeoethnobotany in eastern North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. .

The book's 15 chapters are organized into three loose sections. In the first section, five chapters present broad overviews, or syntheses of regional information covering the period between about 6000 BC to AD 1300. Scarry has arranged these chapters chronologically; they range from examinations of archaeobotanical assemblages from eastern North America's first Late Archaic and Early Woodland gardeners (chapters 2-3), to the emergence of probable field agriculture in the Middle and Late Woodland periods (chapter 4-5), and ending with descriptions of differences between Mississippian period maize farmers (chapter 6). Two of the three chapters in the second section deal with the application of new techniques for looking at the process of plant domestication domestication

Process of hereditary reorganization of wild animals and plants into forms more accommodating to the interests of people. In its strictest sense, it refers to the initial stage of human mastery of wild animals and plants.
. The final section consists of six palaeoethnobotanical case-studies from prehistoric societies ranging from Central Ohio Valley Hopewell and Late Woodland populations (chapter 10), to late prehistoric Mississippian groups in central Alabama Central Alabama is the region in the state of Alabama that stretches approximately 170 miles (270 km) from the western border with Mississippi to eastern border with Georgia and  (chapter 11), Illinois (chapter 12), late prehistoric/protohistoric Oneota peoples of central Illinois Central Illinois is a region of the U.S. state of Illinois that consists of the entire central section of the state, divided in thirds from north to south. It is an area of mostly flat prairie.  (chapter 13) to historic Spanish plant usage in La Florida La Florida (Spanish for "flowery") is a commune of Chile located in Santiago Province, Santiago Metropolitan Region. Stats
  • Area: 70.8 kmĀ²
  • Population: 365,674 (2002 census)
  • Per capita income: US$6,147 (PPP, 2003)
  • Population living in poverty: 9.
.

European scholars should find much of interest in the chapters in this book. Those researchers interested in Mesolithic and Bandkeramik interactions, and the ultimate transformation of foragers to agriculturalists in Northern Europe, the so-called Elm Decline, and methods for the analysis of archaeobotanical assemblages will find that these are all topics that can be explored through comparison with North American North American

named after North America.


North American blastomycosis
see North American blastomycosis.

North American cattle tick
see boophilusannulatus.
 approaches to similar problems. Patterns of long-term wood exploitation from the Somerset Levels The Somerset Levels (or Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly, but more correctly, called) is a sparsely populated wetland area of central Somerset, England, between the Quantock and Mendip hills. , England, is contrasted with two eastern North American contexts.

It is Scarry's introduction to the chapters, however, that provides a useful point of discussing the book. As someone who has toiled in the palaeoethnobotanical vineyards for some time, I sympathize with the lament that Scarry notes very early in her introduction. In spite of the fact that palaeoethnobotanical studies have contributed much to the understanding of the evolution of foodways in eastern North America, and have helped define eastern North America as a geographic area where agriculture developed independently of other centres of food production, Scarry, speaking for her colleagues (p. 4), notes a sense of shared frustration that

'...comes from the feeling that we are not being heard by the breeder archaeological community, or at least not being given adequate attention.'

While I share this general sentiment, Scarry and I differ in our views of its causes. Scarry lays the blame on a reluctance of eastern North American archaeologists to relinquish the long-cherished paradigm that societies in eastern North America were primarily foragers until maize introduced from Mexico became the dominant focus of subsistence economies between about AD 900 and 1000. To accept whole-cloth that large-scale farming of a trust of indigenous eastern plants supported Hopewell and various Late Woodland peoples in a broad belt of the Midcontinent would force a re-evaluation of settlement patterns and social relations.

The fact that most palaeoethnobotanical studies are, as Scarry laments (p. 4),

'...buried in appendices of reports or published as specialized articles that appear where only paleoethnobotanical initiates are likely to see them'

is the result of both the history of the study and interpretation of archaeobotanical collections as well as the narrow range of questions many practitioners attempt to answer.

Palaeoethnobotany as part of American anthropology is a comparatively recent phenomenon, spawned during the late 1960s and early '70s as part of the emergence of so-called 'environmental archaeology'. The first generation of analysts were more often than not botanists recruited by archaeologists to identify plant remains recovered from their excavations. The reports the botanists produced were included as technical appendices in some larger publication, and were often mere laundry-lists of the plants identified. The interpretation of their findings became the domain of the archaeologist, who simply noted the discoveries within the context of the site report.

As palaeoethnobotany has matured, anthropological archaeologists who are interested in the interrelationships between past plant and human populations have largely taken the place of the 'appendix specialist'. Most American palaeoethnobotanical studies are still included as appendices, but now they are being more fully interpreted by specialists who are trained first as anthropologists, and secondly as botanists. While these reports are more and more considered integral parts of archaeological research, the new generation of specialists are still labouring under the historical legacy of their first-generation predecessors.

Palaeoethnobotanists are partially to blame for the situation in which they find themselves. Too often the data they generate in their studies are simply elaborate technical reports, more detailed than the early laundry-lists, but still limited in their scope, and often narrowly focused on only the settlement which produced the assemblage. In order for palaeoethnobotany to assume a larger role in American archaeology, plant remains must be used to address questions of broader anthropological significance, and must be integrated with the traditional 'stones and bones' of prehistory prehistory, period of human evolution before writing was invented and records kept. The term was coined by Daniel Wilson in 1851. It is followed by protohistory, the period for which we have some records but must still rely largely on archaeological evidence to . The greatest contribution of the study of botanical remains will come from palaeoethnobotanists who are also archaeologists.

The chapters in this book set out to ask some of these questions. With few exceptions, all look beyond the site, and many incorporate multiple data sets to examine questions ranging from the occurrence of regional diet patterns to the over-exploitation of firewood as a prime mover prime mover: see energy, sources of.
Prime mover

The component of a power plant that transforms energy from the thermal or the pressure form to the mechanical form.
 in the collapse of Cahokia, the largest centre in North America outside of Mexico.

There is much to admire in this book. Viewed from an historical perspective, Foraging and farming marks a point on the continuum of the evolution of a discipline.

C. WESLEY COWAN Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, Cincinnati (OH)
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Author:Cowan, C. Wesley
Publication:Antiquity
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1995
Words:1005
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