Exploring Mississippian polity interaction and craft specialization with ozarks chipped-stone resources

Brad H. Koldehoff, Tamira Brennan

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Chipped-stone artifacts, especially debitage, are commonly recovered from Mississippian-period sites, often in great numbers. However, these durable residues of daily life tend to be ignored by most Mississippian researchers. In the early days, despite Robert Bell’s (1943:58) plea that “the lowly chert chip should be worthy of a more respected consideration,” debitage was not even collected, or if it was, it was often later discarded (Bell 1943:30; Orr 1951:300). Today, debitage is routinely collected, but it is still not routinely analyzed nor are lithic raw materials routinely identified (e.g., Chapman 1977; Gilliland and O’Brien 2001; Pollack and Rainey 1987; Price and Griffin 1979; Welch 2006). In fact, besides some formal tools like arrow points, hoes, and microliths, chipped-stone tools and debris represent a largely untapped source of baseline information about household and larger economies (Cobb 1989, 2000; Koldehoff 1987, 1990; Koldehoff and Carr 2001). Studies of exchange networks, for instance, tend to focus more on prestige goods fashioned from exotic materials like copper and marine shell than on utilitarian objects fashioned from chipped stone. Chert hoe blades have received considerable attention (e.g., Brown et al. 1990; Cobb 1989, 2000; Muller 1987) owing in large part to the pioneering research of Howard Winters (1981). Yet, little attention has been focused on entire chipped-stone assemblages, particularly with the goal of delineating regional patterns of raw material procurement. The rich and varied chipped-stone resources of the Ozarks (Ray 2007) provide an excellent backdrop for investigating patterns of lithic procurement along the Central Mississippi Valley (Table 1). In this article, we delineate patterns of procurement at three sites: Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, South Cape (or Hunze-Evans) in Mis-souri, and Wickliffe Mounds in Kentucky (Figure 1). We then use this information to make inferences about polity interactions and craft specialization. Our overall goal is to highlight the research potential of the lowly chert flake and assemblage-based lithic procurement studies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131--164
JournalMissouri Archaeologist
StatePublished - 2010


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