Guide Chiefdoms, Collapse and Coalescence in the Early American South

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One contribution of this application of social theory I find particularly useful for archaeological research is its explicit recognition of the role material resources play in organizing and structuring social life. In Chapter 1, Beck characterizes the archaeological evidence for the structure of chiefdoms of the southern Piedmont during the fifteenth century, just prior to the earliest Spanish entradas.

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Beck addresses longstanding and recent criticism of the chiefdom concept and makes a case for its continued utility. He rightly rejects the term's use as part social evolutionary schemes but argues that as a category, the term still has value and allows archaeologists to use common language to describe a "historically situated relationship among local communities The rest of the chapter focuses on the principal archaeological sites and phases of the southern Piedmont, from the Savannah River to the Carolinas.

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Of particular focus is the Late Mississippian Lamar component of the Catawba-Wateree Valley, which eventually formed the geographic core of Catawba coalescence. One important point Beck leaves relatively understated is that the ancestors of many of the Piedmont groups who became part of the Catawba coalescence e.


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The goal of Chapter 2 is to map the sociopolitical relationships of the Carolina Piedmont by charting the people, places, and affiliations described in the sixteenth-century Spanish accounts of Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo and connect them to the archaeological sites and phases presented in Chapter 1. These documents allow Beck to illustrate the dynamic and fluid nature of these political relationships by noting the changes that took place between the Soto and Pardo expeditions.

Chiefdoms, Collapse and Coalescence in the Early American South

Chapter 3 documents the sudden appearance and rise of the first militaristic slaving society, the Westos. It chronicles the ensuing shockwaves the slave trade created that eventually shattered the Carolina Piedmont and its three dominant chiefdoms, Joara, Guatari, and Cofitachequi. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.

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Read preview. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts. Robin Beck's study traces the origin of the Catawba Indians from precontact Appalachian Mississippian chiefdoms through their emergence as a nation in the eighteenth-century Southeast. Beck departs from interpretations that frame Mississippian cultures as disparate communities that concentrated into complex chiefdoms.

These interpretations hold that those inherently unstable polities, upon reaching their apexes, broke into smaller groups, which repeated the process by coalescing into new chiefdoms. The demographic catastrophes produced by European diseases during the sixteenth century permanently disrupted these cycles, leaving behind less complex social formations.

Beck argues instead that Mississippian Most users should sign in with their email address. If you originally registered with a username please use that to sign in. To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above.

Chiefdoms, Collapse, and Coalescence in the Early American South

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