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Chapter 8: Summary and Conclusions
The complexities of even contemporary human societies and our interactions with
the environment belie easy explanation, and we should expect that understanding
prehistoric societies would be even more difficult. Still, this study has revealed several
interesting patterns in the connections between civic ceremonial centers in the Northern
Caddo Area and the landscape, at least some of which bear directly on our understanding
of the archaeological record and human/environment interactions. In this chapter I first
briefly summarize general conclusions from the viewshed and bottomland proximity
analyses, and methodological conclusions drawn from the GIS methods employed here. I
then use this information to assess the three specific research questions presented in
Chapter 1, and discuss the implications of this study to larger archaeological questions
within the study area.
The viewsheds generated in this study are not assumed to be the exact viewsheds
that existed in late prehistoric times. Because the effects of vegetation and earth
curvature are not taken into account, the results represent maximum potential viewsheds.
The parameters used to generate the viewsheds were held constant between all sites,
however, and they are useful for testing specific hypotheses concerning views from the
Comparison of ground-based viewshed size between different types of mounds
demonstrates that they are not located preferentially in respect to size of viewshed.
Viewsheds from mound summits show that platform mounds dominate the larger
viewsheds, simply because they are generally taller than other mounds.
To evaluate viewshed size against a statistical background, five separate models
of mound location were generated, corresponding to the five topographic regions in
which the mounds occur. These models were used in Monte Carlo simulations to
determine average viewshed sizes expected if the mound locations had been chosen
randomly with respect to viewshed size. The Monte Carlo simulations generated 99
samples from the modeled locations against which mound viewshed sizes were evaluated.
These results showed that mounds at the Spiro site (including Skidgel) are located
in landscape positions of significantly high visibility. With the exception of Craig (a
burial mound on a terrace, lower than the rest of the mounds), the viewsheds are all
greater than 89% of the generated sample. Taking into account the heights of the
mounds, all of the large mounds associated with Spiro rank from 99 to 100 within the
generated samples – demonstrating that the constructed mounds were among the most
prominent features on the landscape.
Within the Neosho River Region the results are similar for large mounds at
Norman and Harlan, which are preferentially located with very large viewsheds to begin
with. The construction of these mounds created some of the most prominent features
within the region. Farther up the Neosho River, Reed and Lillie Creek do not appear to
be located preferentially for large viewsheds, and construction of the mounds did not rank
them in the top 10% of generated viewsheds. This holds true even allowing for a height
of 14.5 m for Lillie Creek (after Thoburn 1931), which is probably unrealistically tall.
Within the Ozark Mountain Region larger sites (those with four or more mounds)
are not differentiated in viewshed size from smaller sites (those with only one mound).
Three sites (Goforth-Saindon, Huntsville, and Pineville) appear to be preferentially
located for significantly smaller viewsheds than would be expected by chance.
Within the Arkansas River 2 and Ouachita Regions most of the mounds appear to
be located in areas with preferentially large viewsheds. Within the Ouachita Region,
base-level viewsheds from all four major mound centers (Page, Logan Eddy, Bluffton,
and Borrow Pit) are ranked above 89% of the generated sample.
Examining the viewsheds qualitatively there are very few mounds which are
clearly intervisible, or which even share locations of mutual visibility. Minor regions of
overlap occur in the Ouachita Region, and Carden Bottom Cemetery and Point Remove
would likely have been mutually visible from high points to the north. The chronology of
these sites is not well established, however, and it is unclear whether these sites were
contemporaneous, so the areas of mutual visibility may be spurious.
Norman and Harlan are the two of the three largest and most elaborate mound
centers. At less than 5 km apart, they are closer together than any other major mound
centers, and were active centers contemporaneously. Because a tall ridge separates them
they are not mutually intervisible. Only from one circumscribed location (a tall bluff
about 5 km south of Harlan) would they both have been visible.
An interesting viewshed/landscape relationship is demonstrated at Ewing Chapel
Cemetery, Cavanaugh, Fort Davis, Copple Mound at Spiro, Mound 1 at Goforth-Saindon,
and possibly other mounds. The base of these mounds and the ground surrounding them
(all but Copple are platform mounds or likely platform mounds) are concealed from the
view of observers in the immediately surrounding bottomlands, but a great deal of the
mounds themselves (and any structures on the mounds) would have been well within the
view of the same observers. This revealed/concealed relationship was confirmed at
Ewing Chapel Cemetery, the only location where one of these mounds still exists and
modern construction or tree cover does not obstruct the view.
Alluvial bottomlands were operationally defined through a novel GIS procedure
for delineating specified elevations above local stream level across a large and diverse
study area. From all sites within the core study area (excepting two which occur in
uncorrected reservoirs), four different models of proximity were generated (straight-line
distances, a simple cost model, a 'rivers as barriers' model, and a 'rivers as travel
corridors' model), and classified into 10 proximity indices. Each proximity index
approximates a territory or catchment area for the centers, with the 1st index the smallest
(5 km in straight-line distance), and the 10th the largest (50 km in straight-line distance).
The amount of alluvial bottomland within each proximity index was calculated for each
site, and the results compared within and between the Arkansas River, Neosho River, and
Ozark Mountain Regions.
For the sites tested, the availability of bottomlands correlates very strongly with
the size and elaboration of mound centers over most proximity indices when the lowest
echelon sites are pooled into one category. The largest three sites (Spiro and Skidgel
considered a single site, Norman, and Harlan) rank consistently the highest, or close to
the highest, in amount of proximate bottomland. The only other major site that ranks
consistently as high is Hughes/Ft. Davis, which is a large 2nd echelon center located at
the juncture of three major streams.
The majority of 2nd echelon sites used in bottomland proximity analysis occur in
the Ozark Region, and rank consistently below the 3rd echelon centers in all proximity
models, across all proximity indices. Within the Ozark Region, small sites (with a single
mound) are not differentiated from large sites (with four or more mounds) by proximate
The bottomland proximity analysis thus differentiates between sites of different
size quantitatively fairly well, corresponding to the available resources between regions.
Within regions, however, the sites remain mostly undifferentiated.
By viewing the amount of bottomland proximate to sites at different scales it
becomes clear that there is great variability at short distances (under proximity index 4),
while at longer distances the ranking of sites to one another is relatively stable.
Different models of proximity return very different results, indicating that
different assumptions about movement across the landscape (whether rivers were
corridors or barriers to travel, or made no difference) may lead to different conclusions
concerning catchments, travel time, or caloric expenditure.
Methodological considerations
Two novel approaches are presented in this study: one an algorithm for
delineating bottomlands, and the other a method for determining viewshed size even
when a mound's exact location is unknown. In addition, four different proximity models
were applied to the same data, in part to determine how straight-line distance
approximations compare to slope-derived friction distances, which are considered by
most researchers to more realistically approximate the time or energy necessary to travel
across a landscape.
The bottomland delineation method 'de-trended' the base DEM for stream
elevations by creating a stream-channel DEM surface and subtracting this from the
original DEM, creating a new surface indicating not elevations above sea level but
elevations above local stream levels. The de-trended DEM was then reclassified to
separate elevations less than 8 m above local stream level to delineate bottomlands.
Comparing the results to available SSURGO (2004) soils data and early aerial
photographs, this method appears to work quite well for delineating bottomlands
throughout the study area. One potential problem with this method is that bottomlands of
varying productivity are not differentiated.
For viewshed analysis, several of the mounds in question could not be located on
the landscape with precision. A novel method was presented whereby a systematic grid
of viewsheds is generated throughout an entire site area, and the sizes of these viewsheds
compared. In cases where little variation between the generated viewsheds exists
(compared to the overall variation in viewshed size between the sites), the size of a
mound's viewshed can be estimated with relative confidence, even without knowing
exactly where it is located within a site. In cases where the variation between the
generated viewsheds is great, the mound's viewshed size cannot be estimated with
confidence. This method yielded mixed results, with six out of eight sites returning
generated viewsheds of relatively low variation compared to the sample of viewshed
sizes as a whole. Two sites returned generated viewsheds whose variance spanned much
of the variance for the mounds as a whole, and were therefore not as useful.
Four different proximity models were employed in the bottomland analysis.
These included a straight-line model (returning circular catchments or territories), and
three slope-derived friction surfaces: one simple model not taking rivers into account, one
considering rivers to be barriers to movement, and one considering rivers to be corridors
of easy travel. The four proximity models return significantly different results. For the
three friction-surface models this is not in itself problematic, because each is based on
different theoretical assumptions concerning rivers and rates or ease of travel. Neither
the straight-line model nor the simple cost model take into account the effect of rivers on
travel, and slope-derived friction surfaces are generally considered more realistic in
approximating travel time or energy expended moving over a landscape. That these two
models returned significantly different results implies caution in accepting straight-line
distances, territories, or catchments, without methodological justification that the model
realistically approximates the variable in question.
With the above summaries in mind, I now return to the three main research
Research Question 1: Are mounds located preferentially with respect to viewsheds?
The brief answer to this question appears to be yes for mounds in Arkansas River
Region 1, Neosho River Region 1, the Ouachita Region, and for at least some mounds in
the Ozark Region. Figures 8.1 and 8.2 plot the ranking of viewsheds from all major sites
(2nd and 3rd echelon) against the Monte Carlo generated samples from within areas
modeled as likely to contain mounds. The Monte Carlo samples serve as a statistical
background against which to test the size of mound viewsheds, and significance is
determined by simply ranking the realized sample (mound viewshed) against the 99
generated samples (Kvamme 1996). A viewshed larger than 95 of the generated
viewsheds is significant at p = .05. From the bases of mounds (Figure 8.1), ten out of 27
have viewsheds larger than 90 of the generated samples, and seven have viewsheds larger
than 95 (therefore significant at p = .05). Viewsheds from the base of three mounds
(Skidgel, Page, and Bluffton) rank significantly higher than all 99 samples generated for
their regions. Three mounds (Pineville, Goforth-Saindon, and Huntsville) are in the
lowest 7% of generated samples for their region.
When the mound heights are taken into account (Figure 8.2) exactly half (13 of
26) mounds have viewsheds larger than 95 of the generated samples. While the
generated samples were not designed to serve as a statistical background for mound
summits, this does demonstrate the prominence of many of the mounds on the landscape.
* Not used to generate parameters for modeled areas.
Figure 8.1. Viewsheds by rank within modeled areas, from mound bases.
* Not used to generate parameters for modeled areas.
Figure 8.2. Viewsheds by rank within modeled areas, from mound summits. Viewshed
from Loftin was generated 1.5 m above an uncorrected reservoir surface so no summit
viewshed was generated.
Figures 8.3 and 8.4 show the same site rankings, arranged by region. Only
mounds in the Ozark Region are situated preferentially on the landscape for locations
with small viewsheds. Mounds in the Arkansas River 1 and Ouachita Regions are
situated preferentially on the landscape for locations with large viewsheds. Recall that
these rankings are generated within areas modeled as similar in landscape position to the
mounds themselves. The Ozark mounds do not rank lower simply because viewsheds in
the Ozarks are more constrained by topography than they are in the large river valleys;
they rank quite low even taking this into account.
Figure 8.3. Viewsheds by rank within modeled areas, from mound bases.
Figure 8.4. Viewsheds by rank within modeled areas, from mound summits.
The viewsheds from Goforth-Saindon and Huntsville are somewhat counterintuitive at first glance, because these are two of the largest and most elaborate civic
ceremonial centers in the Ozark Plateaus. Instead of selecting for locations with large
viewsheds for the regions, these sites appear to be selected for locations with small
viewsheds. In light of this evidence, Kay et al.'s impression of the view from Ozark civic
ceremonial centers is put in a fuller context: "the visual effect is that of being on stage of
a large amphitheater, as one has a commanding view of the valley and flanking uplands
from any of the mounds" (1989:137). The mounds have a commanding view of the
flanking uplands because the uplands are close – so close as to significantly restrict the
viewsheds from Goforth-Saindon, Huntsville, Pineville, and possibly Loftin. If the
mounds "were originally conceived with the aim of conveying ideas to a large audience"
(Bradley 2000:158), it doesn't necessarily mean that they must have been visible from
large portions of the landscape. The landscape relationship of these mound centers
implies a more intimate feel than the centers in the large river valleys with viewshed sizes
a full order of magnitude larger.
Considering the strength of this evidence for highly different locational criteria
for mound locations in Ozark and river valley regions based on smaller or larger
viewsheds, I suggest this implies a social discontinuity in the meaning or use of the
mounds between these regions. This is further discussed under research question #3
Research Question 2: Does the size and elaboration of mound centers correspond to
locally available bottomland?
The answer to this question depends upon the frame of reference we use for
organizing mound centers. Not differentiating between sub-regions within the study area,
the answer is a qualified yes – by almost any measure the largest centers have the largest
amounts of bottomland in proximity to them, with few exceptions. The exceptions are
mainly within the first four proximity indices, at relatively close distances to the centers
(corresponding to 5-20 km in straight-line distances). If we assume the mound center
territories to be at least this large or larger, the 3rd echelon centers of Harlan, Norman,
and Spiro are differentiated from lower-echelon centers very well. Beyond this, the
lower echelon sites are mostly undifferentiated. In fact, the rather unintuitive result is
that the two confirmed 1st echelon centers (Spinach Patch and Guy Brittain) generally
rank higher in available bottomland than the larger 2nd echelon centers.
Spinach Patch and Guy Brittain are both located within the Arkansas River 1
Region not more than 50 km from the 'premier' civic ceremonial center of Spiro, and with
this clue we may shift our frame of reference from individual sites to individual regions.
Viewing bottomland proximity differences between the Arkansas River, Neosho River,
and Ozark Regions, a clear pattern emerges where, with very few exceptions, the river
valley centers have much more proximate bottomland than the Ozark centers. This is
certainly an intuitive conclusion, but by quantifying the mound center/bottomland
relationships with three different proximity models a more complete picture emerges.
From similarities and differences between the friction-surface based models it
follows that: 1) No matter which of the three assumptions we make about rivers and
travel, the river valley sites have more proximate bottomland than the upland sites; 2) If
we consider rivers in the analysis at all (whether to be barriers or corridors), the Neosho
River Region sites gain greater access to bottomlands than do sites in the Arkansas River
Region, particularly if rivers are considered corridors; 3) Within the Neosho River
Region, the 3rd echelon sites (Harlan and Norman) are consistently ranked higher in
proximate bottomland than the 2nd echelon sites of Reed and Lillie Creek, but generally
ranked lower than the 2nd echelon site of Hughes/Ft. Davis; and 4) No matter which
proximity model is used, larger and smaller sites in the Ozark Region are completely
undifferentiated with respect to available bottomland.
An overall picture emerges of a gradient in site size and elaboration flowing
irregularly downstream from the bottomland-impoverished uplands to the bottomlandrich river valleys. Sites along streams in the Ozarks are undifferentiated by bottomland
proximity, as if a minimum threshold necessary for 2nd echelon sites had been met
throughout the region, but beyond this threshold bottomland is not responsible for
variation in site size or elaboration. Recall that a platform mound is necessary for a site
to be defined as 2nd echelon. All of the sites in the Ozarks used in this study (excepting
Goshen, which is considered provisionally only) contain at least one platform mound.
Whether they contain a single platform mound or four or more mounds, they are not
situated differentially with respect to bottomland proximity.
Downstream in the Neosho River Region 3rd echelon centers appear. Less than 5
km apart and contemporaneous centers for at least a few hundred years, Harlan and
Norman present a puzzle to interpretation in this study. Considering that after Spiro these
are the two largest sites within the Northern Caddo Area, Norman and Harlan have
received surprisingly little attention in the literature. Extensive excavations were
conducted at both sites from the 1930s to 1950s, and only Harlan received a thorough
treatment in a site report (Bell 1970). Norman was the subject of one short piece shortly
after the earliest investigations (Finklestein 1940), but substantial reports on the site did
not appear until much later (Albert 2000; Rogers 2000; Vogele 2000; Vogel et al. 2005).
The relationship of the sites to one another was long assumed to be neither competitive
nor cooperative, but primarily diachronous with Norman replacing Harlan. Bell
(1984b:238), for example, theorized, "It would appear that, for some social reasons not
presently understood, the political-religious control once centered at the Harlan site was
shifted to the Norman site, and the Harlan mound center fell into disuse". Radiocarbon
dates acquired since then (Rogers et al. 2000; this volume Appendix A) show that while
Harlan may have been occupied first, and Norman may have continued for some time
after Harlan was no longer active (although even this is not clear from the available date
contexts), they were contemporaneous centers with active mound construction for a
period of 200 years or more.
Bottomland proximity was assessed for each site individually in this analysis, not
taking into account the presence of other sites whose presence may have served as a
limiting factor on other sites' territorial size. If Norman and Harlan represent competing
centers with populations in mutually exclusive territories, each would more appropriately
have been awarded approximately half of the available bottomland ascribed here. If this
were the case, they would rank approximately equal to Lillie Creek and Reed in the
Neosho River Region, and the overall differentiation in this analysis between 3rd echelon
and smaller centers would be completely disrupted. If, instead, Norman and Harlan
represent centers for cooperating polities, or even separate but related centers of the same
polity, then the bottomland proximity analysis would change very little for the combined
Norman/Harlan community, and the integrity of differentiation between 3rd echelon and
smaller centers would be maintained.
I propose that the latter possibility be considered, insofar as it is consistent with
the rest of the analyses presented here. Only information directly from the sites
themselves may be able to confirm or refute this proposition.
Further down the river valley, Spiro and associated sites (Skidgel and Cavanaugh)
vie with Norman and Harlan for the greatest amount of proximate bottomland. Only in
the simple cost model (not taking rivers into account) do Skidgel and Spiro rank higher
than Norman and Harlan, and then only for distance indices 4 to 7. The implications of
this may be somewhat misleading, however. The bottomland model is an imperfect
proxy for many of the resources it approximates because it does not take into account
differences in the productivity of bottomland throughout the study area, just the total area
of bottomland. Because of the strong correlation between the largest sites and the largest
amount of bottomland the model appears to be expressing a fairly coherent and intuitive
outcome, but we should not use this to conclude that Norman and Harlan had greater
access to resources in terms of soil productivity just because more bottomland was within
easy reach.
Research Question 3: Are mound/landscape relations different in the uplands than they
are in the river valleys?
Rose et al. (1998) found significant differences in skeletal samples between the
river valleys and uplands in the Northern Caddo Area, with the river valley populations
much healthier and a possessing a better overall adaptive efficiency. This dichotomy led
Rose et al. to propose that the two regions either manifest different cultural adaptations,
or that they manifest the same cultural adaptation which was simply not as effective in
the uplands. Both the bottomland proximity and viewshed analyses shed light on the
question of upland/river valley differences. Viewshed analysis may shed light on at least
one aspect of cultural continuity between the regions as a characteristic of mounds as
artifacts. Intricately linked to social reproduction and organization as well as settlement
systems and natural resources, mounds may express similarities or differences in cultural
adaptations between populations in numerous ways. Even if we may not be able to
interpret the significance of these similarities or differences, their presence alone may be
Viewshed analyses show an obvious difference between the Ozark Region and all
five other topographic regions defined for purposes of this study. While the Arkansas
River Region 1, Neosho River Region 1, and Ouachita Region sites are located in spots
with preferentially large viewsheds, and the Arkansas River Region 2 and Neosho River
Region 2 sites are undifferentiated with respect to viewshed size, only sites in the Ozark
Region are located preferentially for small viewsheds. The Ozark Region has, on
average, smaller viewsheds to begin with, but the sites are still situated on the landscape
so as to minimize the overall view. Pineville, Huntsville, and Goforth-Saindon all have
viewsheds that fall below 93% of their generated background samples. As a whole, the
Ozark Region sites comprise 8 of the 12 lowest-ranked viewsheds both from mound
bases and summits. Even with the added mound heights, no mound viewshed in this
region is larger than about 60% of the generated sample. The viewsheds from these sites
are simply small compared to the background distribution of possible viewsheds, even
modeling for realistic mound locations. This contrasts sharply with sites in the adjacent
river valleys, where the situation is completely reversed.
The bottomland proximity analyses also show a sharp difference between the
uplands and river valleys, but with slightly more equivocal results. There is no question
that sites in the Ozark Region have far less proximate bottomland than sites in the river
valleys (on average about half the area or less), but this study has not been able to
quantify whether sites in either region were selecting for larger or smaller stretches of
bottomland than we would expect by chance alone, within each region. (Monte Carlo
analysis in conjunction with the bottomland proximity analysis would have been able to
answer this question, but was unfortunately impractical due to computing limitations.)
Still, as noted above, the bottomland proximity analysis did demonstrate that the size and
elaboration of mound centers and availability of bottomland are connected factors in the
river valleys, but are not at all connected in the Ozark Region.
Combining these ideas, a picture emerges of two populations who have at least
one significantly different cultural trait in the form of mound viewsheds. As long-term,
large-scale, carefully wrought modifications of the landscape, it is difficult to imagine
such a significant difference in mound location between the two regions as the result of
random variation alone. Mound centers in the uplands and river valleys, while exhibiting
overall similar morphology and structure, articulate with the viewshed landscape in very
different ways.
The two populations also relate to the natural environment in a significantly
different way, in that 'extra' bottomland proximate to sites in the river valley appears to
have the potential to translate into larger or more elaborate mound centers, while in the
Ozark uplands these two factors are completely divorced. This seems to agree fairly well
with Rose et al.'s (1998:122) second hypothesis, "The alternative explanation is that the
upland (especially in the Ozark Mountains) culture is different from that of the lowlands,
but it is still not able to provide adequate stressor buffering".
Ozark populations were surely integrated with a wider cultural system in the river
valleys in important ways, as demonstrated by the presence of the mounds themselves
and numerous other cultural traits (Brown 1984; Fritz 1979), but the significant
differences in this study show that certain important traits between the regions were not
Further considerations
Aside from the three specific research questions addressed above, the information
provided by this study bears in direct and indirect ways on other questions concerning the
study area's s prehistory, and in some ways on southeastern prehistory in general. This
study is specific to a region that has been given little attention in the archaeological
literature in recent decades. Perttula (1996:296) writes, "Caddoan area archaeology and
native history have been all but overlooked and forgotten in current regional syntheses by
archaeologists, ethnohistorians, and historians." This study synthesizes information on a
specific type of site within one portion of the Caddo area, and as such is a necessary, and
necessarily parochial, step in understanding regional prehistory. At an early Caddo
Archaeology conference James Griffin cautioned against wide-scale conclusions from
such studies, "You cannot understand any segment of the Southeast unless you
encompass this whole area, and you cannot reach rational conclusions as to what was
happening unless you do this. You may be wrong, but you can be wrong with a good
idea and that's a lot better than being wrong because you've been parochial" (quoted from
Davis et al. 1971:49).
I note that this study may at least offer methodological approaches and theoretical
suggestions to be tested in other areas of the prehistoric world. The Mississippian
Southeast is often viewed as offering rich information on the development of complex
societies because it is a circumscribed, relatively isolated region with a unique cultural
trajectory in world prehistory. As a circumscribed sub-region with a unique cultural
trajectory of its own within the Mississippian Southeast, the Northern Caddo Area may
serve as a manageable 'test case' for many ideas. With Griffin's caution in mind, I hope
that the views presented here, while from a necessarily parochial point of view, may add
to a wider discussion of the Southeast as a whole.
The territorial size of Mississippian chiefdoms has received a great deal of
attention in the archaeological literature, with widely differing estimates of the
geographic range of political power. Hally (1993:143) summarizes several estimates of
Mississippian chiefdom territory size ranging from 28 to 200 km for the Moundville site
alone. The four models of proximity presented in this work have not been applied
directly to test for the potential size of territories represented by mound center spacing.
The results do imply, however, that at distances greater than 20 km (or distance index 4
in the proximity models based on cost surfaces), the amount of locally available resources
between centers changes very little. At distances shorter than this, the relative amount of
available resources changes greatly depending on the exact size of territory used.
Considering the general correlation of mound center size and elaboration with proximate
bottomland above distance index 4, I suggest that the influence of the centers extended at
the very least to this distance. For purposes of catchment analysis in this region, how
much larger the influence extended does not matter.
The general correspondence of the amount of proximate bottomland and the size
of mound centers implies the importance of bottomland resources for the centers and the
populations served by them. While a large amount of bottomland may have been
necessary for the large mound centers, this alone was not sufficient for their
development. Large stretches of bottomland exist with no recorded mound centers –
between the Skidgel and Cat Smith sites, for example (see Figure 7.6), and along a very
wide stretch of rich Arkansas River bottomland between the Spinach Patch and Scotia
sites. Barring unrecorded large mound sites in these areas, this suggests that a large
amount of proximate bottomland may have been a necessary but not a sufficient criterion
for the existence of a large mound center. Put another way, large amounts of bottomland
resources may have created the potential for the development of large mound centers, but
this potential was simply not realized in some locations. Why this might be the case
could be an interesting direction for future study.
Both the bottomland proximity analysis and viewshed studies may bear at least
indirectly on questions of social organization as they relate to the mound sites. Recall
Emerson's (1997) view of mound centers as regional nodes within a hierarchical network,
and Muller's (1997) argument that mound centers may have been autonomous
communities with the mounds themselves serving as markers of, and possibly necessary
constructions for, their own autonomy. Neither view was intended as a panMississippian model of political organization, but both have implications for the
distribution and patterning of mounds within the northern Caddo area.
Muller's (1997) autonomy model implies a more direct relationship between
locally available resources and mound preeminence and size. If construction of the
mound centers relied chiefly on surplus generated locally, their size and elaboration may
reflect available bottomland within the territory of the mound centers. The distribution of
bottomlands as a measure of territorial resources would approximate the hypothetical
distribution shown in Figure 8.5a. This distribution reflects sub-sets of the population
who may have had close ties to neighboring groups, but maintained a large degree of
political independence reflected in an investment of local resources into local
monumental architecture.
Emerson's (1997) hierarchy model implies a non-direct relationship between
locally available resources and mound center preeminence and size. Kay et al (1989)
similarly interpret the patterning of the mound centers in the Arkansas and White River
drainages as reflecting a well organized, widespread settlement system. They note the
nearly regular spacing of some of the larger mound centers, and of the interspersed
smaller 'satellite' centers. This interpretation corresponds closely to Emerson's view of a
highly structured, hierarchical system of populations represented by large mound centers
extracting tax or tribute from populations at smaller mound centers. The distribution of
mounds within the bottomlands as a measure of territorial resources may in this case
more closely approximate the hypothetical distribution of mounds in Figure 8.5b. This
distribution reflects the necessity of not simply larger tracts of arable bottomland within
the territories of the large centers, but the necessity of a certain number of associated
smaller mound centers.
Figure 8.5. Idealized mound distributions. Left represents the model proposed by Muller
(1997) of largely autonomous mound centers whose size and elaboration depended
primarily on locally available resources. Right represents the model proposed by
Emerson (1997) of hierarchically-organized mound centers, with larger centers extracting
resources from the smaller ones.
The bottomland proximity analysis conducted in this study shows a general
correspondence with the autonomy model, over nearly all proximity indices: larger and
more elaborate mound centers have, on average, more bottomland in close proximity than
do the smaller centers. The correspondence is regional, however, and may say more
about available bottomland resources by region, not by mound center territory. Monte
Carlo statistical analysis on bottomlands within the study area may be able to answer this
question in the future.
The viewshed analysis shows a striking difference in mound locations between
the Ozark Plateaus and valleys of the Neosho and Arkansas Rivers, again pointing to
important regional differences which may obscure patterning characteristics of the sites
as a whole, particularly given the relatively small number of sites to begin with. Recall
that the size and elaboration of sites in the river valleys correspond fairly strongly with
locally available bottomland, while the size and elaboration of sites in the Ozarks does
not. If, as this analysis at least weakly supports, the Ozark sites represent a separate
cultural adaptation from that of the river valleys, the Ozark adaptation appears to be less
dependent upon, or less influenced by, excess bottomland in proximity to mound centers.
Another possibility is that the location of the mound centers was patterned more
directly not by environmental or political concerns, but by trade of high-status goods
across long distances. The Spiro site has long been recognized as a potential 'gateway'
trading community, situated between the plains to the west and north, and eastern
woodlands and Mississippian River bottomlands to the east. Spiro's location along a
major waterway connecting these regions is often cited in support of its importance as a
trading center, and the vast quantity of high-status, exotic items found at Spiro certainly
point to the importance of long-distance trade in at least these items. Schambach (1993,
2000, 2003, and elsewhere) argues that trade at the Spiro site and elsewhere in the
Arkansas River drainage extended far beyond high-status, exotic goods, serving as an
important economic input to the community as a whole. In this interpretation, Spiro
gained preeminence in the region not directly because of locally or regionally available
generated agricultural surplus, but because of control over long-distance trade. Although
the specific analyses conducted here were not geared to address this question directly, the
general trend from large centers along the larger rivers to smaller centers along smaller
streams certainly supports the importance of long-distance trade. This observation is not
at all new, but perhaps the methods and information generated for this study will lead to
further refinements and quantification of the question.
Further Questions
As nearly all such studies, this research raises more questions than it answers.
Much of this research was a struggle with available computing resources. At a very
practical level, several lines of inquiry are suggested when increased computing capacity
and more elaborate and complete datasets become available. These include:
1) Cumulative viewshed analysis (Wheatley 1995), whereby the viewshed from
every pixel on a landscape is computed and summed to create a surface showing the
visibility 'prominence' of all locations. This holds the potential to determine not only
which mounds have larger or smaller viewsheds than would be expected by chance, but
exactly where on the landscape larger and smaller viewsheds are naturally located.
2) Least-cost pathway analysis between sites, conducted with the three friction
models, may shed light on potential connections between the mound centers.
3) Monte Carlo analysis applied to the bottomland proximity methodology laid
out in this study. This would better demonstrate the similarities or differences of mound
center locations both between and within regions, in relation to the locally available
bottomland, and would allow for more robust conclusions concerning their relationship.
4) Further testing of the bottomlands as defined by the algorithm developed for
this study through SSURGO soils data or other detailed soils/landscape layers as they
become available.
5) Refinement of the bottomland layer as used in this study through SSURGO
soils data or other sources, taking into account not just the amount of available
bottomlands but also the potential productivity of the soils.
Directions 1-3 were not undertaken in the present study simply because of
computing resources. For example, a cumulative viewshed analysis was attempted for a
circumscribed portion of the base DEM, defined by a bounding raster 200 km on each
side. When left to run on a computer for 48 hours, the module progress indicator showed
the process 0.1% complete. Extrapolating a steady rate of progression this returns a
somewhat daunting 5.5 years of processing time, assuming no hardware or software
failure. I am confident, however, that the process will be feasible with easily available
computing resources before such a process begun now would finish.
Further archaeological directions relating to this work include:
6) Time-sensitive analysis of both the viewshed and bottomland proximity data
generated for this study. Currently, the regional chronology is too coarse to assign tight
age ranges to most sites or mounds within the study area. Unfortunately, this dissertation
added little to our understanding of regional chronology (although new dates for Norman
and Elkins are reported here for the first time, see Appendix A).
7) Further analysis of the landscape similarities and differences between mound
centers based on more than topographical and hydrological data. This study used
standard USGS 30 m raster elevation data to derive most layers. This was largely a
matter of necessity, as few other datasets incorporate such large areas with the same level
of precision. Detailed, digitized vegetation layers are available for the study area, but
were not incorporated into this analysis because it is unclear how closely this information
reflects prehistoric vegetation patterns.
8) Analyses conducted on non-mound sites similar to that conducted here would
almost certainly provide fruitful results. Village and farmstead sites are far less visible in
the archaeological record, and many of them are undoubtedly submerged beneath the
impoundments of major streams in the area. Even significant village sites are therefore
much more likely to have gone unrecorded. Still, they may represent a more direct
connection to the environment than civic ceremonial centers, and could provide an
additional view of the dynamics of late prehistoric human/landscape relationships.
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