Ancient Complexities

New Perspectives in Pre-Columbian North America

Edited by Susan M. Alt

Foundations of Archaeological Inquiry

Jim Skibo, Series Editor

Anthropology and Archaeology

Many archaeologists have long been frustrated with the traditional, reductionist representation of complexity. Yet, even after years of debate, there seem to be never ending disagreements over the complexity of places like Chaco Canyon, Cahokia, and Poverty Point. This matters, because there are political and scholarly implications to calling any place or people more or less complex. In North America especially, given historical biases and the mound-builder myth, archaeologists need to rethink complexity as they seek to explain the past.

Based on a Society of American Archaeology symposium, Ancient Complexities offers a current overview of what is meant by cultural complexity and how archaeologists study the development of complex societies in North America. Taking a critical look at how accepted definitions of complexity have bounded our thinking about ancient societies, this volume presents new theoretical perspectives and states a case for the need for different definitions in order to move this discussion ahead.

This collection by scholars of North American archaeology is a must read for anyone wishing to be abreast of the most current dialogue on complexity taking place in modern archaeology.

Susan M. Alt is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, and is an archaeologist studying Mississippian societies. She is currently excavating in southern Indiana, seeking to understand the homelands of people who migrated to Cah

Table of Contents:

Susan Alt, ed., Ancient Complexities:
List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Considering Complexity: Confounding Categories with Practices
     Susan M. Alt
2. (E)mergent Complexities during the Archaic Period in Northeast Florida
     Asa R. Randall and Kenneth E. Sassaman
3. Hunter-Gatherer Ritual and Complexity: New Evidence from Poverty Point, Louisiana
     Tristram R. Kidder
4. Practicing Complexity (Past and Present) at Kolomoki
     Thomas J. Pluckhahn
5. Sacrificing Complexity: Renewal through Ohio Hopewell Rituals
     Bretton Giles
6. Mobile Farmers and Sedentary Models: Horticulture and Cultural Transitions in Late Woodland and Contact Period New England
     Elizabeth S. Chilton
7. Confounding Kinship: Ritual Regional Organization in Northern Michigan, A.D. 1200-1600
     Meghan C. L. Howey
8. Complexity in Action(s): Retelling the Cahokia Story
     Susan M. Alt
9. Categories of Complexity and the Preclusion of Practice
     Jon Bernard Marcoux and Gregory D. Wilson
10. Landscapes of Complexity in the U.S. Southwest: The Hohokam, Chacoans, and Peer Polity Interaction
     Jill E. Neitzel
11. The Good Gray Intermediate: Why Native Societies of North America Can't Be States
     Stephen H. Lekson
12. A People’s History of the American Southwest
     Severin Fowles
13. Downsizers, Upgraders, Cultural Constructors, and Social Producers
     Robert Chapman
14. The Unbearable Lightness of Complexity
     Norman Yoffee
List of Contributors